“New Drug Prevents Cancer!” “Chocolate Aids Weight Loss!”
We come across headlines about medical research findings, recently approved drugs and new treatment protocols almost daily. How accurate are they? How can we be sure they apply to us?
If you think a medical news story reported in the media may apply to you, then a thorough review of it is imperative, especially if you think it may change your approach to your diagnosis or medical treatment. Most often, it will come from something recently published in a medical journal, which requires an assessment of the study that was reported.
Why do the homework instead of just asking your doctor? You may waste visit time discussing something that may not apply or be useful to you. Beyond that, acting on news without doing a little digging to see what's behind it first might be detrimental to your health -- and your wallet.
Follow these steps to help you evaluate medical journals and the news they produce:
Determine Whether the Study Results Apply You
Within the news story, you'll often find a description of the study participants. Make sure those participants represent you. Their gender, age, physical and health-related characteristics are as important as the disease, condition or treatment studied. How close do the participants match you? If the study was about hormone replacement therapy for women who have had total hysterectomies, and you still have an ovary, the results don’t apply to you. However, if the study concerned beta-blockers for men over age 50, and you are a 55-year-old male with heart disease, you're a closer match to the participants. There's a chance that the results may apply to you, at least to some degree, too.
Once you are certain the profile of the participants is similar to yours, you'll need to assess the credibility of those who issued the report.