About one-third of British women don’t fully understand the risks involved in the chance of over-diagnosis in breast cancer screening through the British National Health Service breast screening program, new research showed. The findings suggest that further patient education for breast screening may be needed within the patient population.
The National Cancer Institute describes over-diagnosis as true-positive mammography screenings that will not become clinically significant. “Over-diagnosed disease is a neoplasm that would never become clinically apparent without screening before a patient’s death,” the institute explains in its official website.
The new study, entitled, “A survey study of women’s responses to information about over diagnosis in breast cancer screening in Britain” and recently published in the British Journal of Cancer, focused on the concern that researchers have for how the public understands over-diagnosis in breast cancer screening, as well as on the uncertainty about the likely impact on screening participation.
A research team led by Dr. Jo Waller from the Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London analyzed how 2,272 women understood over-diagnosis and screening intentions before and after receiving information about over-diagnosis.
Results showed that 64% of the women in the study had moderate subjective understanding of over diagnosis, while 57% had moderate objective understudying. Despite uncertainty over the information given and the estimate of the rate of over-diagnosis in a simple ratio format, only 7% of women showed a decrease in screening intention, and there was a lower intention among women below 47 years (screening age). In addition, 4% of women showed a higher intention to attend breast screening after receiving information.
These findings led researchers to conclude that women don’t completely understand the brief, written information on over-diagnosis that is typically given to them by their doctors. Furthermore, regardless of whether they do or do not fully understand the information, their breast screening intentions decrease once they receive the information, suggesting that a rethinking of the presentation of the information may be necessary to improve patient adherence.