COMMENTS: Magnetic

It is all very well for the American Cancer Society to recommend annual magnetic resonance screening to supplement mammography for all women with a 20% lifetime risk for breast cancer. How does it expect those women to comply? Many hospitals do not have MRI machines. The tests cost ten times as much as mammograms, $2,000 per scan. Most private health insurance does not cover such screening. CBS' Kelly Wallace quoted estimates that 1.4m women fall under the new guidelines: "It will not be cheap," adding an annual $1bn to healthcare costs nationwide. ABC's John McKenzie explained that MRIs expose suspicious blood flow--as opposed to the tumors found by mammograms--but because they are so sensitive "there are many more false alarms, requiring many unnecessary biopsies."

For NBC, Robert Bazell was careful to point out that the ACS guidelines, if adopted nationwide, represent a windfall for his bosses at General Electric, which manufactures MRI machines: "What the Cancer Society is trying to do is to get more hospitals to buy the machines; more radiologists trained to read them for breast cancer; more insurance companies to cover them, including Medicare. That should bring down the cost and make them more widely available."

Both ABC and NBC anchored their newscasts from Washington. NBC's Brian Williams took advantage of the trip to cover lobbying for breast cancer research on Capitol Hill. He sat down with singer Sheryl Crow, who wants the federal government to spend $40m on a study of possible environmental causes. Crow admitted that news events have made her role superfluous: Elizabeth Edwards' announcement "really usurped" her.

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