Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Confuse Women

Paying attention to the recommendations significantly associated with correct understanding

THURSDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- The new recommendations on breast cancer screening released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force confuse women more than they help them understand when to get a mammogram, according to a study published online April 5 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Linda B. Squiers, Ph.D., from RTI International in Rockville, Md., and colleagues examined the extent of public discourse around the recommendations and assessed whether women were knowledgeable about the new recommendations. The researchers analyzed the content of news stories and social media posts around the time of the announcement and conducted a Web-based survey of 1,221 women aged 40 to 74 years, who had never had breast cancer.

The investigators found that only 17.6 percent of the articles and posts supported the recommendations, and most (51.9 percent) were not supportive. Recommendations for women aged 40 to 49 and 50 to 74 were correctly identified by less than one-quarter of the sample. Factors that were significantly associated with accurate knowledge of the recommendations for women aged 40 to 49 included having a mammogram in the last two years, attaining a higher level of education, being of a race other than black or white, feeling confident that the guidelines were based on current research, and paying attention to the guidelines.

"The new recommendations confused women (30.0 percent) more than they helped them understand when to get a mammogram (6.2 percent)," the authors write. "Communication about future recommendations should be pretested to identify strategies and language that may reduce confusion among providers, consumers, and advocacy groups."

This study was funded by RTI International.

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