The costs and benefits of preventing cancer were the concern of CBS and ABC. ABC's John McKenzie (subscription required) explored why one million fewer American women had mammograms for breast cancer in 2005 than five years earlier. Cost cutting in reimbursements for the procedure led to hundreds of clinics closing and declining ranks of radiologists. McKenzie did not estimate how much money had been saved by the cuts or how many otherwise preventable deaths will occur because of the missing scans. He settled for the vague conclusion that "thousands more breast cancers each year are going undiagnosed."
Cervical cancer was the subject of Cynthia Bowers' In Focus feature on CBS. In order to prevent most of the 3,670 annual deaths from the disease, several states want to make it compulsory that pre-teenage girls take shots of Gardasil, the vaccine that helps block the sexually transmitted virus that causes most cancers of the cervix. Each year two million sixth-grade girls are eligible for the shots that Merck sells for $360 each. Bowers' cost-benefit calculus, however, was not financial. She took the angle that the shots could function as a license to make love: telling young girls they should not have sex, while protecting them against sexual disease, might send a "mixed signal."
Of all the things that stimulate an adolescent girl's libido, lessening the risk of lethal cancer some two decades later is the least likely of aphrodisiacs.
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