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Knowledge and Perception of Breast Density, Screening Mammography, and Supplemental Screening: in Search of “Informed”



To explore women’s knowledge and perceptions of breast density and experiences of breast cancer screening across three states with and without notification laws.


A qualitative research design using four focus groups conducted in 2017. Forty-seven women who had a recent normal mammogram and dense breasts in registry data obtained through the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium were included. The focus groups were 90 min, audio recorded, and transcribed for analysis. Data were analyzed using mixed deductive and inductive coding.


Women reported variable knowledge levels of personal breast density and breast density in general, even among women living in states with a notification law. A number of women were aware of the difficulty of detecting cancer with dense breasts, but only one knew that density increased breast cancer risk. Across all states, very few women reported receiving information about breast density during healthcare visits beyond being encouraged to get supplemental imaging or to pay for new mammography technology (i.e., breast tomosynthesis). Women offered more imaging or different technology held strong convictions that these were “better,” even though knowledge of differences, effectiveness, or harms across technologies seemed limited. Women from all states expressed a strong desire for more information about breast density.


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. Options to explore include improved breast density notifications and education materials about breast density, continued development of personalized risk information tools, strategies for providers to discuss evidence and options based on risk stratification, and shared decision-making.

To read more, see the following article on the PubMed website: PMID: 31792869