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More women receive breast MR when notified of their cancer risks: study

by Lisa Chamoff , Contributing Reporter
Women at high risk of developing breast cancer were more likely to return for an adjunctive breast MR after a mammogram when they received a letter informing them of their risk and recommending further screening, a recent study has found.

Researchers at Invision Sally Jobe Breast Centers (ISJBC) in Colorado joined scientists at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Radiology, and the Colorado School of Public Health Communications for the study, published in the journal Health Communications.

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In 2009, a couple of years after the American Cancer Society issued guidelines recommending that women at an elevated lifetime risk for breast cancer be screened with breast MR as an adjunct to mammography, ISJBC began assessing the risk of women who came in for mammograms.

If a woman was found to have a greater than 20 percent risk, according to the Gail model of risk assessment, which looks at seven key risk factors for breast cancer, and an MR was recommended, ISJBC mentioned this in the mammography report sent to the women’s referring physician. The next year, ISJBC sent the women a letter as well.

“It created for us this natural experiment,” John Brinton, assistant research professor at the Colorado School for Public Health and the paper's first author, told HCB News.

The study found that when only the physicians were informed about their patient’s elevated breast cancer risk, 9.8 percent of women returned for adjunctive MR. When the women themselves were also sent a letter, 14.4 percent returned for the additional screening.

For repeat screeners — women who went to ISJBC for their regular mammogram — nearly 7 percent of women returned for an MR when they received a letter, versus none of the women when only the referring physicians were notified.

“The results suggest that the information going both to the women and their primary caregiver has the potential to increase screening rates,” Brinton said.

Brinton said that it was possible that the results could be driven by a nationwide trend of increasing adjunctive MR screening, instead of by communication efforts.

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