Twitter hashtag war erupts over breast screening

2016 09 28 13 24 28 411 Twitter Bird 400

The battle over breast screening spilled into the realm of social media on May 18 as two sides of the mammography debate dueled over a hashtag designed to promote screening awareness.

The imbroglio began when organizers of the Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk (WISDOM) study sought to use the hashtag #EndTheConfusion to try to generate publicity for their research and get more women to enroll in the study. The WISDOM study is designed to see if routine mammography screening of women in their 40s can be replaced by risk-based screening.

Currently, 12,000 women are enrolled in the WISDOM study, but organizers are hoping to boost that to 100,000 to give the trial statistical power over 10 to 20 years, according to an email obtained by WISDOM study organizers therefore urged supporters to participate in a "Women's Day of Wisdom" virtual social media event on May 18, using a variety of hashtags, including #EndTheConfusion.

Proponents of population-based screening for younger women got wind of the initiative, however, and organized their own counterevent based on the hashtag (which previously has been used by the Society of Breast Imaging to promote screening). Screening advocates flooded the hashtag with a variety of pro-screening messages and statistics illustrating the role of mammography in saving the lives of women in their 40s.

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