Mammography screening: how far is too far?

Rural Remote Health. 2013 Jan-Mar;13(1):2149. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


Introduction: This study answers the question: 'How far must a Canadian woman travel before the risk of a motor vehicle accident (MVA) outweighs the benefits of mammography screening?'.

Methods: Numbers needed to screen and false positive rates were extracted from information in the breast screening guidelines from the Canadian Task Force on screening for breast cancer. Motor vehicle accidents per billion vehicle kilometres were extracted from Transport Canada. The charts of women undergoing screening mammograms were reviewed to determine the average number of extra trips generated from a false positive mammogram. A formula was devised to determine when the distance travelled and risk of MVA outweighed the benefits of mammogram screening.

Results: How far a woman would need travel before the risk of that travel outweighed the benefits of screening mammography is determined by the province in which she lives (location) and her age. The distance of a round trip before the risk of travel outweighed the benefit of screening mammography varied from 65 km to 1151 km, according the patient's age and location.

Conclusion: Travel risk is rarely discussed in recommending screening examinations. Nevertheless the benefits of screening can be outweighed by the risk of travel. Knowledge of travel risk is essential before recommending screening procedures.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / economics
  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Canada
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / standards
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / trends
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • Travel* / economics
  • Travel* / statistics & numerical data