News | Breast Density | April 28, 2021

Knowledge gaps regarding breast density among women’s health providers can be addressed with web-based education and may lead to more informed and effective patient-provider communications

Knowledge gaps regarding breast density among women’s health providers can be addressed with web-based education and may lead to more informed and effective patient-provider communications

April 28, 2021 – DenseBreast-info.org (DB-I) announced the results of the study, “Effect of an educational intervention on women’s healthcare provider knowledge gaps about breast density, breast cancer risk, and screening.” Published in Menopause, the study identified important knowledge gaps about implications of breast density among women’s healthcare providers and showed that these deficiencies can be effectively addressed with web-based education.

This is the second of two research studies conducted by DB-I to address knowledge gaps among women’s health providers regarding breast density, breast cancer risk assessment, and breast cancer screening. Results of the first research study, conducted in radiologists and radiologic technologists, were published in the Journal of Breast Imaging in July 2020.

The latest study was designed to assess the effect of an educational intervention, based on DenseBreast-info.org website content, on women’s healthcare provider knowledge of breast density and comfort level discussing these topics with patients. US-based women’s healthcare providers participated in a web-based pretest/posttest study from May 14, 2019 to September 30, 2019. Of 177 providers analyzed, 131 (74.0%) were physicians and 127 (71.8%) practiced obstetrics/ gynecology.

Average test score increased from 41% (5.7/14) responses correct pretest to 72% (10.1/14) posttest. Post intervention, all knowledge gaps were resolved or reduced and comfort in discussing breast density implications increased. Specifically:

• Pretest, 56.5% knew women with extremely dense breasts have four-to-six-fold greater breast cancer risk than those with fatty breasts, compared to 96.6% posttest;

• Pretest, 29.4% knew risk increases with increasing amount of glandular tissue, compared to 63.3% posttest;

• Pretest, only 5.6% knew 3D/tomosynthesis does not improve cancer detection in extremely dense breasts over 2D mammography, compared to 88.1% posttest;

• Prestest, 70.6% would consider supplemental ultrasound after mammography in an average-risk 50-year old with dense breasts compared to 88.1% posttest;

• Comfort in navigating patient discussions about breast density impact on breast cancer risk, masking cancer detection on mammography, and appropriate consideration of supplemental screening increased significantly from pretest to posttest.

“These findings suggest that important knowledge gaps about implications of breast density exist among women’s healthcare providers, which can be effectively addressed with web-based education,” said Robin Seitzman, Ph.D., MPH, Director of Education and Epidemiology Research, DenseBreast-info.org. “Screening mammography can be self-referred, but all other breast imaging screening is most often ordered by obstetrician/gynecologists and other primary care providers. Their knowledge and comfort in navigating patient discussions about breast density, masking, risk, and possible supplemental screening is essential to ensure women receive appropriate breast cancer screening recommendations.”

“While density inform laws were developed to raise patient awareness about dense breast tissue, they do not, on their own, fully educate women about dense tissue. Women’s healthcare providers play a critical role in communicating clear, accurate information to patients about the masking and screening implications of dense breast tissue. In addition to more appropriate breast cancer screening recommendations, improving knowledge among providers may result in more informed and effective patient-provider communications which would improve patient understanding of the implications of dense tissue and encourage shared decision making about breast health,” said Wendie Berg, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Radiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Magee-Womens Hospital, Department of Radiology and Chief Scientific Advisor, DenseBreast-info.org.

This research was funded in part by a generous grant from the American Cancer Society.

DenseBreast-info.org, cited as the most up-to-date and comprehensive resource on the topic, was developed to provide breast density information to both patients and health care professionals. This medically-sourced educational tool is the collaborative effort of world-renowned breast imaging experts and medical reviewers and includes a Risk Model Primer and a comprehensive suite of educational tools. Free downloadable patient tools include a Patient Fact Sheet, Patient Brochure and Breast Cancer Risk Checklist. Also available is a patient education video series, Let’s Talk About Dense Breasts. 

For more information: densebreast-info.org/

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