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More Education Needed on Breast Density and Screening Choices

Women largely do not know breast density ups risk for breast cancer even in U.S. states with notification

MONDAY, Jan. 6, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Being a resident in a state with a dense breast notification law does not appear to help women know more about breast density, according to a study published online Dec. 2 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Karen E. Schifferdecker, Ph.D., from Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and colleagues conducted focus groups to assess women’s perspectives about breast cancer screening and breast density in general and by U.S. states with and without notification laws. The Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium registry data were used to identify 47 women who had a recent normal mammogram and dense breasts.

The researchers found that women reported variable knowledge levels of personal breast density and breast density in general, even those living in states with a notification law. While many women were aware of the difficulty of detecting cancer with dense breasts, only one knew that density increased breast cancer risk. Very few women, across all states, reported receiving information about breast density during health care visits beyond being encouraged to get supplemental imaging or to pay for new mammography technology (e.g., breast tomosynthesis). Despite limited knowledge of the differences, effectiveness, or harms across technologies, women offered more imaging or different technology held strong convictions that these options were “better.” There was a strong desire for more information about breast density among women from all states.

“More research needs to be done to understand how the medical community can best assist women in making informed decisions related to breast density, mammography, and supplemental screening,” the authors write.

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