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

A 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 the Journal of Women's Health.

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 tumour 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.

"Brown and coauthors found that two-thirds of the physicians in their study felt the need for more education about breast density, with this being true of 85 percent of the PCPs in particular," said Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women's Health, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women's Health, Richmond, VA, and President of the Academy of Women's Health. "This represents a tremendous educational opportunity and one that could benefit a large number of women who are told they have dense breast tissue and face increased breast cancer risk."

Source: Mary Ann Liebert Inc. / Genetic Engineering News

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