Purpose: The value of mammography for asymptomatic women younger than 50 years of age has been under debate, and it had been suggested that each woman should decide for herself whether to start having mammograms in her 40s. This decision-making process requires women to have knowledge of screening guidelines. This study reported key determining informational factors that led women age 40 and older to obtain a mammogram.
Description of study: To examine the relationship between sources of information and utilization of mammography, the authors conducted a communitywide telephone survey, in English and Spanish, of a stratified random sample of 999 white, black, and Hispanic women in Dade County, Florida. The survey was designed to measure knowledge, attitudes, practices, and beliefs about breast cancer, its prevention, and its early detection. Data for 784 women 40 years and older are analyzed and reported here.
Results: The most commonly cited source of information was the media (90.2%). In a logistic regression, having had a checkup in the past year was the strongest predictor of having had a recent mammogram as opposed to a distant one (OR 4.17; 95% CI 2.92-5.95). Women who named their physician as an important source of information about health and prevention were also more likely to have had a recent examination (OR 1.85; 95% CI 1.27-2.69).
Clinical implications: This analysis of the relationship between the source of information and utilization of mammography suggests that physicians, as sources of information, serve to motivate women to obtain a mammogram. This is true even after taking into account the patient's age and utilization of the healthcare system for preventive care in general. For this reason, it is imperative that clinicians be aware of national guidelines for breast cancer screening; of the risks and benefits of screening measures; and of the implications of a positive and negative test result. In addition, clinicians must realize the importance of follow-up to remind the patient to obtain a mammogram or other screening test and should develop strategies to provide this service.