Misinformation and misunderstanding about the risks associated with ionizing radiation create heightened public concern and fear, and may result in avoidance of screening mammography that can detect early cancers.
In a study to determine the baseline understanding of the radiation associated with mammography among patients presenting for initial or follow-up imaging, women were asked to rate the amount of radiation received in a single mammogram as being significantly less, slightly less, about the same, slightly more, or significantly more compared to a series of radiation benchmarks. None of the subjects correctly ordered all six of the benchmarks; on average, they significantly overestimated the amount of radiation associated with a mammogram in comparison to other radiation benchmarks.
"Our findings indicate a need to educate patients about the amount of radiation they are exposed to during a single screening mammogram," said Jacqueline Hollada, a member of the University of California Los Angeles research team. "Using everyday sources of radiation exposure as benchmarks can help add perspective and improve patients' understanding of radiation levels associated with mammography, thereby reducing anxiety related to the examination."
The authors conclude that medical personnel should make concerted effort to accurately inform women of the risks and benefits of mammography - specifically highlighting the low dose of mammographic ionizing radiation - and provide objective facts to ensure that women make informed decisions about screening.
Ms. Hollada presented her study at the 2014 ARRS Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.