Monitoring women's experiences during three rounds of breast cancer screening: results from a longitudinal study

J Med Screen. 2002;9(4):168-75. doi: 10.1136/jms.9.4.168.


Objectives: (a) To monitor experiences of women during three successive rounds of breast screening; (b) to examine the impact of previous experiences (obtained either immediately after the latest mammogram or shortly before the subsequent one) on reattendance; and (c) to examine which factors are associated with the experience of pain and distress during screening.

Setting: The Dutch Breast Cancer Screening Programme

Methods: 2657 women completed a baseline measurement (response rate 67%) about 8 weeks after they had been invited for an initial mammogram (T(1)). Actual participation data of these women in the second and third rounds of screening were collected. Follow up questionnaires were sent to subgroups of the sample at different times: shortly before the second screening (T(2); response rate 86%), shortly after the second screening (T(3); response rate 85%), shortly before the third screening (T(4); response rate 80%), and shortly after the third screening (T(5); response rate 78%).

Results: Most women were satisfied with the first screening round and remained positive about subsequent screens. Although pain and anxiety were not uncommon, only a few (10%-15%) experienced moderate or severe levels of distress or pain. Experiences were relatively stable: women who experienced pain in the first screen were more likely to experience pain in subsequent screens (r values from 0.39 to 0.50). Fear of breast cancer was associated with increased distress related to mammography and, to a lesser extent, with increased pain during the mammography. Evidence was found for a relief effect: women were more positive about their previous screen when asked shortly after this screen, than when asked just before the subsequent one. Previous experiences (obtained either proximally or distally) were only slightly predictive for future attendance.

Conclusion: Experiences during mammography are fairly stable. Negative experiences were generally not a reason to drop out of the programme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mammography / psychology*
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*