Physicians' attitudes towards mammography and prophylactic surgery for hereditary breast/ovarian cancer risk and subsequently published guidelines

Eur J Hum Genet. 2000 Mar;8(3):204-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5200418.


After a BRCA mutation has been identified in the context of hereditary breast/ovarian cancer (HBOC), mammographic screening and prophylactic surgery are two of the main options available to those responsible for the clinical management of healthy women. The aim of this study was to describe the attitudes of specialists towards the clinical management of women with an HBOC risk: this information was collected prior to the publication of the recent French guidelines. A random national sample of 1169 French surgeons, gynaecologists and obstetricians was surveyed using a mailed questionnaire, to which 700 of these physicians (60%) responded. When dealing with a BRCA mutated woman, 88.6% of the respondents said they would recommend mammographic screening, but only 27.1% would recommend that it should be carried out annually from the age of 30 years onwards, as recommended in the French guidelines; 10.9% would find it acceptable to propose prophylactic mastectomy from the age of 30 years, and 22.9% would find it acceptable to propose prophylactic oophorectomy from the age of 35 years. The specialists who agreed with recommending breast/ovarian cancer genetic testing also had more positive attitudes towards prophylactic mastectomy (adj OR = 3.4, 95% CI = 1.4-8.2), as did those who had previously recommended prophylactic mastectomy when gene testing was not yet available (adj OR = 2.06, 95% CI = 1.23-3.44). The respondents' attitudes towards prophylactic oophorectomy and mastectomy were significantly associated (adj OR = 3.9; 95% CI = 2.3-6.5). Previous recommendation of prophylactic mastectomy was associated (P < 0.01) with a higher level of knowledge of breast/ovarian cancer genetics and with medical practice in this field. French physicians' attitudes towards mammographic screening and prophylactic surgery were not in complete agreement with the subsequently published French guidelines, the impact of which has now to be considered. Constantly evolving knowledge about the efficacy of preventive intervention will give practitioners new elements to integrate into their counselling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammography
  • Mastectomy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Ovariectomy
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors