Should This Woman With Dense Breasts Receive Supplemental Breast Cancer Screening?: Grand Rounds Discussion From Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Gerald W Smetana, Joann G Elmore, Christoph I Lee, Risa B Burns
Annals of Internal Medicine 2018 October 2, 169 (7): 474-484
Breast cancer will develop in 12% of women during their lifetime and is the second leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women. Mammography is the most commonly used tool to screen for breast cancer. Considerable uncertainty exists regarding the age at which to begin screening and the optimal screening interval. Breast density is a risk factor for breast cancer. In addition, for women with dense breasts, small tumors may be missed on mammography and the sensitivity of screening is diminished. At the time of publication, 35 states had passed laws mandating that breast density be reported in the letters that radiologists send to women with their mammogram results. The mandated language may be challenging for patients to understand, and such reporting may increase worry for women who are told that their risk for breast cancer is higher than average on the basis of breast density alone. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American College of Radiology (ACR) have each issued guidelines that address breast cancer screening for women with dense breasts. Both organizations found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against magnetic resonance screening, whereas the ACR advises consideration of ultrasonography for supplemental screening. In this Beyond the Guidelines, 2 experts-a radiologist and a general internist-discuss these controversies. In particular, the discussants review the role of supplemental breast cancer screening, including breast ultrasonography or magnetic resonance imaging for women with dense breasts. Finally, the experts offer specific advice for a patient who finds her mammography reports confusing.

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