As we enter the second week of Breast Cancer
Awareness Month, it appears awareness of breast health and mammography
screenings is increasingly necessary.
Only about a quarter of women age 50 to 74 had the
appropriate number of lifetime mammography exams recommended in
national guidelines, according to an article in "Health Services
Research" published by Health Research and Educational Trust.
Fifty-nine percent of women had a mammography in
the past two years, while 70 percent of women studied had at least one
exam in their lifetime. Guidelines issued by the National Cancer
Institute call for women age 50 to 74 to be screened every one to two
"Our finding that only about one-quarter of women
report adhering to screening guidelines has important implications for
practitioners and mammography programs and policies," said Dr. Kathryn
A. Phillips, assistant professor of health services research and policy
at the University of California-San Francisco, and her colleagues.
"Although the vast majority of women have had
initial screening and a majority of women have had recent screening,
the large drop in the percentage of women who adhere to guidelines
indicates that adherence needs to become a focus of clinical,
programmatic and policy efforts," they said.
They also discovered that a woman's adherence to
guidelines was influenced by her involvement in shared decision-making
with her physician. The study suggests that the interaction between
women and their providers plays a key role in adherence. Women also
were more likely to use mammography if they: were younger; had smaller
families, higher education and income, and a recent Pap smear; reported
breast problems; lived in areas where mammography facilities had
tracking and reminder systems; and lived in areas with sufficient
numbers of primary care physicians, and with higher HMO market