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A survey of 848 doctors across the United States found they were more likely to recommend routine mammograms for younger and older women if the doctor knew someone who’d had advanced breast cancer and had not undergone breast cancer screening. The person might have been a patient, family member or friend of the doctor.
The recommendation for screening was given despite the existence of conflicting guidelines on routine screening for those age groups, the researchers said.
The American Cancer Society recommends personalized decisions for women aged 40 to 44, annual screening for women starting at age 45 and biennial screening (every other year) for women 55 and older. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends personalized decisions for women aged 40 to 49 and biennial mammograms for women aged 50 to 74.
The doctors in the study included 246 who practiced internal medicine, 379 who practiced family medicine and 223 who practiced gynecology.
Compared with other doctors, those who knew at least one person who had not been screened and later developed advanced breast cancer were much more likely to recommend routine mammography to women aged 40 to 44 (93 percent versus 86 percent) and women older than 75 (84 percent versus 69 percent).
“Our findings suggest that we need to help clinicians better understand the impact personal experiences with friends and family members, as well as their patients, have on their practices,” said study lead author Dr. Craig Evan Pollack. He’s an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
“As a first step toward increasing adherence to guidelines, it may be necessary to create opportunities and messaging strategies that help physicians recognize the experiences that help shape their recommendations,” Pollack said in a university news release.
The study was published online Dec. 4 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
— Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, Dec. 4, 2017