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Swiss Med Wkly. 2001 Jun 2;131(21-22):311-9.

Screening mammographies in Switzerland: what makes female and male physicians prescribe them?

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Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Basel, Switzerland.



Physicians play a key role in motivating women to undergo mammography screening. In 1998 we assessed Swiss physicians' attitudes to mammography screening and their prescription behaviour in this regard.


All female physicians and every second male physician aged 50-69 who were either not board-certified or board-certified in general practice, internal medicine, or obstetrics/gynaecology were sent a questionnaire. The response rate was 50% and thus 738 questionnaires were included in this study. Of the study population 39% were female and 61% male physicians. The distribution of professional backgrounds was: 27% board-certified general practitioners; 23% board-certified internists; 11% board-certified gynaecologists; 39% not board-certified.


55% of all study participants were in favour of a mammography screening programme for women aged over 50 in Switzerland, but breast self-examination and clinical breast examination were judged to have a more positive impact on breast cancer survival. Among clinically practising physicians, 22% reported generally prescribing biannual screening mammographies for women aged 50-69. Irrespective of other determinants, physicians from the Italian- and French-speaking parts of Switzerland prescribed screening mammographies more often than their colleagues from the German-speaking part (odds ratio [OR] 2.5; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.5-4.2). Clinical practice in obstetrics/gynaecology (OR 2.4; CI 1.3-4.2) and a self-reported high level of knowledge concerning mammography screening (OR 1.9; CI 1.1-3.2) were also positively associated with the prescription of screening mammography.


Since mammography screening programmes exist in only three French-speaking cantons of Switzerland (VS; VD; GE), the gap in prescription of screening mammographies between French/Italian- and German-speaking regions must be narrowed to prevent a higher prevalence of side effects from opportunistic screening among German-speaking women. There is a need to educate physicians and the political community regarding the risks and benefits of mammography screening.

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