Survey Shows Majority of Participants Unaware of Danger of Dense Breasts

A new survey conducted by the Working Mother Research Institute and sponsored by GE Healthcare sheds important new information on the level of awareness women have about breast cancer today and what they are doing to help reduce the disease or detect it early. The survey of 2,502 women revealed that while 80% of the women have had a mammogram, and 70% of those women get an annual breast screening, only one out of five women surveyed who have dense breasts know that they may be at a higher risk of breast cancer.

Kelly Roberts, MD, director of breast imaging curriculum at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System in Chicago, calls this finding "alarming," considering that a woman with extremely dense breasts has twice as much risk of developing cancer in the next 10 years as a woman with average density. In addition, mammography is estimated to be only 48% effective in detecting cancers in dense breasts, compared to 98% effective in typical fatty breasts, according to Roberts.

The survey also found that less than one-half (43%) of the participants knew that having dense breast tissue makes it harder to read a mammogram. In addition, only 9% of the survey participants with dense breasts say their doctor recommended a supplemental screening breast exam, and only 21% knew that if your mother had dense breasts, you are likely to follow.

Nearly one-half of the women surveyed who have had a mammogram have been asked to return for more tests. For women with dense breasts, that number jumped to 69%. Three-quarters of women in the survey who have been called back feel nervous, and 43% find it difficult to focus on day-to-day activities while waiting for results.

While 84% of the respondents call the level of detail they received about their mammogram results "acceptable," only 59% say they are satisfied with their interaction with their radiologist and slightly fewer feel informed about the different types of breast imaging technology available to them.

Nine out of 10 consider mammograms to be an important part of health management while 80% have had at least one mammogram. Seventy percent of the respondents who have had a mammogram get screened annually and a vast majority of women who have had mammograms report a positive experience, with 92% saying they were satisfied with their interaction with their technician, the overall atmosphere of the facility (91%), and how quickly they got an appointment (90%).

For the 20% of women who hadn't had a mammogram, the top reason for skipping it was cost (36%), followed by 24% who said it's "not necessary," 15% who said they never got around to it, and 13% who are afraid.

The Working Mother survey found that minority women, who made up 14% of the survey, reported slightly different breast screening experiences. They were more likely to say they received their first mammogram to be proactive about their health (25% of minority women vs 21% of the total sample). However, they were less likely to have gotten their first mammogram because a doctor recommended one as a baseline (42% of the minority women vs 48% of the total sample).
— SOURCE: GE Healthcare