Thursday, October 29, 2009

TV Breast Exams Straddling Line Between Good Idea and Ratings Ploy

Why Do This When Exams Play A "Small Role" in Detecting Cancer

Of course, any weapon to fight breast cancer is both welcome and needed. And WJLA-TV in Washington is running with the notion in a big way.
As part of a four-part series on the disease, it will show on their newscasts today two women fully exposed as they do a breast self-examination. No drapes or tasteful concealments. This will be a frontal assault on a long-time taboo.
On the one hand, you can argue that providing women with as much information as they can to head off a killer disease while it could still be treatable is only a good thing. And this is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so you do have that tenuous synergy.
Then again, even the American Cancer Society is ambivalent about breast self-exams. The Washington Post notes the Society says "self-exams play only "a small role" in finding breast cancer. On its Web site, the society says 'it's okay not to do [a self examination] or not to do it on a fixed schedule.'"
Not only that, the society had no comment about the WJLA series. In other words, the bandwagon passed by and they conveniently forgot to jump.
Given that, you could view -- should you choose to view this -- more as a ratings ploy than a good idea. WJLA, though, gets to hide behind the cloak of performing a valuable public service, and tow the "If we could save just one life with these reports" line and not look opportunistic.
It's actually a rather ingenious maneuver. Whether it actually has any impact is another matter.

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