Congratulations to Christie Aschwanden, 2013 Science in Society Journalism Awards

Congratulations to Christie Aschwanden, one of this year’s winners of the Science in Society Journalism Awards, sponsored by the National Association of Science Writers. Her piece, “The Real Scandal: Science Denialism at Susan G. Komen for the Cure” was posted on February 8, 2012, on the web site The Last Word on Nothing.

“It asserts that Susan G. Komen for the Cure — an organization advocating for breast cancer screening and research — ignored research on tumor biology to overemphasize screening. The judges called Aschwanden’s opinion article “persuasively argued, authoritative and highly informative.” In her commentary, Aschwanden took issue with the organization’s blame-the-victim tone and the false narrative that breast cancer is uniformly progressive and can only be treated if caught early. Such a position, wrote Aschwanden, ignores the perils of over-diagnosis and the potential for unnecessary and damaging treatments.”

When I first read Aschwanden’s piece I immediately asked to republish it on Pink Ribbon Blues as “one of the finest essays I’ve read about the “false narrative” (i.e., the fairytale notion that breast cancer is a uniformly progressive disease that starts small and only grows and spreads if you don’t stop it in time), and its use in selling wholesale screening, along with accompanying lifestyle and product placements, to the masses.” I couldn’t be more pleased that she has gotten sound recognition for this important work.

And here is her recent Washington Post story about why she is opting out of mammography.

Christie Aschwanden is an award-winning freelance writer and editor. She is a contributing editor for Runner’s World and was a contributing editor for Health from 2000 to 2010. She has been a contributing writer for Skiing and her articles and essays have appeared in more than 50 other publications including The New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times, The Washington PostO—the Oprah MagazineMen’s JournalSlate, NPR, Mother Jones, National Wildlife, Backpacker, Reader’s Digest, Self, WebMD, Science, Cell and New Scientist. Christie has also written and edited books and reports for the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health and other national and international organizations. She has been interviewed about her work by the BBC and other media. Christie’s coffee table book about chicken breeds, Beautiful Chickens, was published in 2012. Christie Aschwanden lives in western Colorado. Pink Ribbon Blues is pleased to republish her essay, “The real scandal: science denialism at Susan G. Komen for the Cure®,” which was originally published on the science blog, The Last Word On Nothing. Christie Aschwanden’s followup, “The false narratives of pink ribbon month, redux” is also republished on Pink Ribbon Blues, originally posted on The Last Word on Nothing.

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2 comments to Congratulations to Christie Aschwanden, 2013 Science in Society Journalism Awards

  • I read Christie Aschwanden’s Feb 2012 The real scandal: science denialism at Susan G. Komen for the Cure® piece with interest but was disappointed when she got to the 3 possible outcomes of mammogram, because a 4th was left out: false negative as a result of the radiologist declaring a white area as dense tissue, when in fact the whole area was a tumor. I realize false negative doesn’t happen much, but it does happen. So no, I do not think mammo’s save lives, but I wish false negatives were discussed more often. For those of us who had to put up with it, it matters just as much as over diagnosis. Due to human error, I almost became “late” detection, and it was not my fault–I got the recommended mammogram.

  • YES. While I read the three outcomes in terms of “cancer outcomes” your point is that false negatives and false positives ALSO result from mammograms.

    Mammograms frequently provide insufficient information to reach clear conclusions about the presence of tumors, and suspicious areas on a mammogram may or may not indicate cancer. A report from the Institute of Medicine stated that 75 percent of all positive mammograms, upon biopsy, were “false-positives” (i.e., did not show the presence of cancer). The cumulative risk in Europe and the United States of false positives in 10 screening rounds ranges from 20% to 60%. A recent study found that even after 3 years of being declared free of suspected cancer, women who had a false-positive consistently reported greater negative psychosocial consequences than their peers with normal findings and those with true breast cancer.

    Mammograms on average miss 25 to 40 percent of tumors that actually are cancerous. These are the called “false-negatives.” There are several reasons why mammograms miss these cancers, including the ability of the X-ray to clearly capture the image, the lack of certainty about how to interpret “suspicious” areas on the image, differences in the ability of radiologists to assess the image accurately, and the rate of tumor growth. Such important points. Thank you for commenting.

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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