2014 Breast Cancer Symposium Highlights on the Impact of Breast Cancer Screening Reminders, with Julia White, MD

September 6, 2014
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In this podcast, we’ll discuss one study highlighted at the 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium that presents research on the impact of sending reminders to women overdue for breast cancer screening with mammography. 



ASCO: You’re listening to a podcast from Cancer.Net (Cancer dot Net). This cancer information website is produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO, the world’s leading professional organization for doctors that care for people with cancer.

In today’s podcast, we’ll discuss one study highlighted at the 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium that presents research on the impact of sending reminders to women overdue for breast cancer screening with mammography. This podcast will be led by Dr. Julie White, who is Vice Chair of Clinical Research and Director of Breast Radiation Oncology in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Ohio State University. Dr. White is also a member of the News Planning Team for the 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium. ASCO would like to thank Dr. White for summarizing this research.

Dr. White: My name is Julia White; I am a radiation oncologist with breast cancer expertise at Ohio State University, James Cancer Hospital and Comprehensive Cancer Center. I am going to discuss a recent study that looked at the impact of sending reminders to women overdue for mammography screening. This was an interesting study, and I think it has implications for how to best use screening mammography programs. I know there’s been a lot of debate and controversy about screening mammography, but nevertheless, there is lots of information supporting the need for screening mammography, and that women who are screened are more likely to have smaller, less locally-advanced breast cancers.

So it’s important that, for women who get screening, who are of screening age, that they are able to take advantage of those programs. And that’s the important thing that this study looked at. This was done in the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Canada. They have a very good screening program, but noted that approximately 54 percent of women in the screening age of 50 to 69 were actually taking advantage of that. And in British Columbia, women are screened every other year.

And what they did in the program there, like many of our programs here in the States – a letter was sent out from the screening mammography program reminding women to come in to have their mammograms. Despite this, nearly half of women in the targeted age range failed to undergo screening mammogram. So they did this simple study where they reached out to family practitioners in the region and asked them if they could include a letter to their patients encouraging them to participate in the screening mammogram.

In this study, researchers identified over 5,000 women who had prior normal screening mammograms and were overdue for screening. In half of them, they sent just the standard notecard from the screening and mammography program, and in the other half, they sent not only the notecard, but a letter from their family physician encouraging them to come in for the screening. What they found when they looked several months later was that, within the group that had just the postcard from the screening program – roughly 22 percent came in for screening, while 2.2 times relatively larger group of women came in who received a postcard and a letter from their family physician.

I think that, when you think about the many ways that we try to improve detection and diagnosis of breast cancer in women, this seems like such a smart and simple way to increase screening. We often focus on very complicated advancement in technology, and here, we emphasize the very important relationship of a primary care physician and their patient, which we would like to see continue on for all women.

So overall, the authors demonstrate that by adding a letter from the family physician, in addition to a postcard from the screening program – that is a very simple and effective intervention to improve screening mammography in targeted age groups.

ASCO: Thank you, Dr. White. More information from the 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium can be found at www.cancer.net, including additional podcasts covering other highlighted research from this event.  Cancer.Net is supported by the Conquer Cancer Foundation, which is working to create a world free from the fear of cancer by funding breakthrough research, sharing knowledge with physicians and patients worldwide, and supporting initiatives to ensure that all people have access to high-quality cancer care. Thank you for listening to this Cancer.Net Podcast.