Women not sufficiently informed about breast density

Several studies have shown that breast density can increase the risk of breast cancer.  ― AFP pic
Several studies have shown that breast density can increase the risk of breast cancer. ― AFP pic

NEW YORK, Dec 27 — American researchers questioned women who had just had a mammogram on their level of knowledge about breast density, which is a risk factor for breast cancer.

Do you have dense breasts? It’s a question that may seem strange at first, but one that could save lives: Several studies have shown that breast density can increase the risk of breast cancer. Breast density refers to the level of fibrous and glandular tissue as opposed to fatty tissue in the breast. It cannot be detected by palpation, but is deduced via mammography.

A team of researchers from the University of Dartmouth in the United States set out to evaluate women’s knowledge of breast density and their perception of the risks it may entail, as well as their experience of breast cancer screening. Using data obtained from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, they recruited 47 participants who had dense breasts and had all recently undergone mammography screening. They were interviewed in 90-minute focus groups, which were recorded and transcribed for analysis.

“Very few women received information about breast density during healthcare visits”

Overall, the results of the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, revealed varying levels of knowledge among the women surveyed, both about their own breast density and about breast density in general. A number of women were aware of the difficulty of detecting cancer with dense breasts, but only one woman knew that density increased the risk of breast cancer.

“We found that very few women received information about breast density during healthcare visits although some were encouraged to get supplemental imaging or to pay for new types of mammography such as breast tomosynthesis,” said Karen Schifferdecker, PhD, MPH, who directs the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.

Women who were offered more imaging or testing with different technologies were strongly convinced that these options were “better”, even though their knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of these appeared limited.

“More research needs to be done to understand how the medical community can better assist women in making informed decisions related to breast density and screening,” concluded Schifferdecker. — AFP-Relaxnews

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