Do physicians properly advise women with dense breasts on cancer risk?

A new study has shown that more than half of physicians—primary care doctors and specialists—may be unaware that dense breasts are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, and nearly half reported not being aware of laws requiring physicians to inform women about mammography-related breast density risks and supplemental screening options. This timely and newsworthy study, which also compared the knowledge and practices of primary care physicians to specialists regarding breast density, is published in Journal of Women’s Health.

Jordonna Brown, MBBS, MPH and a team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY coauthored the article entitled “Physician Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Regarding Breast Density.” They found that compared to specialists, primary care physicians (PCPs) were less aware of the increased risk of breast cancer risk for women with dense breasts or their state’s breast cancer density laws. Breast density is both an independent risk factor for breast cancer and it can hide evidence of a breast tumor on routine mammographic screening. Most breast density laws refer patients to their PCPs to discuss their risks and options. Unfortunately, no established protocols are in place for screening women with dense breasts. Further complicating the issue, only some states mandate insurance coverage for supplemental breast imaging.

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