A survey done in 2016 examined which agency primary care physicians and gynecologists trust the most when it comes to providing guidelines breast cancer screening.
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of malignancy affecting thousands of women worldwide. Detecting breast cancer in its early stages, through the use of breast examination and mammography, can greatly improve a patient’s prognosis. Different agencies, such as American Cancer Society (ACS), US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have posted updated on breast cancer screening. There has been discordance with regards to the optimal time for initiation of screening procedures and the interval at which procedures should be done.
In a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a national survey among primary care physicians (internal medicine, family medicine, general practice, and gynecology) was conducted to determine which agency’s breast cancer screening guidelines they trust most. It also assessed the association between screening recommendations and physician specialty. Surveys were distributed by mail to 2000 physicians who were randomly sampled from May to September 2016. The survey asked the following: 1) which agency they trust most with regards to screening guidelines, and 2) whether they recommend routine screening procedures to women without any history or family history of breast cancer among different age groups. Researchers who analyzed the survey data focused on women aged 40-44 years, 45-49 years, and 75 years or older, because these are the age groups wherein guidelines provided by the different agencies were discordant.
The results of the survey show that 81% of physicians recommended screening procedures to women aged 40-44 years, 88% to women aged 45-49 years, and 67% to women aged 75 years or older. Annual examinations were usually recommended by physicians who recommend screening: 62.9% for women aged 40-44 years, 66.7% for women aged 45-49 years, and 52.3% for women aged 75 years and older. Gynecologists were more likely to recommend screening procedures across all age groups compared to internists, general practitioners, and family physicians. With regards to which agency’s screening guidelines physicians trusted most; 26% trusted ACOG, 23.8% preferred ACS, and 22.9% USPSTF. It was also observed that physicians who trusted ACOG and ACS were more likely to start recommending screening procedures to younger women compared to those who preferred USPSTF.
In conclusion, primary care physicians recommend screening procedures for breast cancer to women aged 40 years and older. The physician’s decision when to start recommending screening procedures also depends on which agency he/she trusts the most.
Written By: Karla Sevilla