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BMC Womens Health. 2008 Oct 20;8:18. doi: 10.1186/1472-6874-8-18.

Frequency format diagram and probability chart for breast cancer risk communication: a prospective, randomized trial.

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Breast Diagnostic Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.



Breast cancer risk education enables women make informed decisions regarding their options for screening and risk reduction. We aimed to determine whether patient education regarding breast cancer risk using a bar graph, with or without a frequency format diagram, improved the accuracy of risk perception.


We conducted a prospective, randomized trial among women at increased risk for breast cancer. The main outcome measurement was patients' estimation of their breast cancer risk before and after education with a bar graph (BG group) or bar graph plus a frequency format diagram (BG+FF group), which was assessed by previsit and postvisit questionnaires.


Of 150 women in the study, 74 were assigned to the BG group and 76 to the BG+FF group. Overall, 72% of women overestimated their risk of breast cancer. The improvement in accuracy of risk perception from the previsit to the postvisit questionnaire (BG group, 19% to 61%; BG+FF group, 13% to 67%) was not significantly different between the 2 groups (P = .10). Among women who inaccurately perceived very high risk (> or = 50% risk), inaccurate risk perception decreased significantly in the BG+FF group (22% to 3%) compared with the BG group (28% to 19%) (P = .004).


Breast cancer risk communication using a bar graph plus a frequency format diagram can improve the short-term accuracy of risk perception among women perceiving inaccurately high risk.

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