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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2018 May;27(5):615-622. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2017.6539. Epub 2018 Jan 17.

Primary Care Provider Experience with Breast Density Legislation in Massachusetts.

Author information

1 Women's Health Unit, Evans Department of Medicine, Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston Medical Center , Boston, Massachusetts.
2 Department of Health Law, Policy, and Management, Boston University School of Public Health , Boston, Massachusetts.
3 Boston University School of Medicine , Evans Department of Medicine, Section of General Internal Medicine Boston, MA.
4 Division of Internal Medicine and Primary Care, Tufts Medical Center , Boston, Massachusetts.
5 Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies , Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.



Dense breasts on mammography independently increases breast cancer risk and decreases mammography sensitivity. Thirty-two states have adopted notification laws to raise awareness among women with dense breasts about supplemental screening. Little is known about these policies' impact on clinical practice among primary care providers (PCPs).


This study explores PCP attitudes, knowledge, and the impact of the Massachusetts dense breast notification legislation on clinical practice after its enactment in 2015. An anonymous, online survey at two urban safety-net hospitals was administered in 2015-2016. Practicing MDs and nurse practitioners in primary care were invited to participate.


All 145 PCPs in general internal medicine at the two sites were e-mailed a survey link and 80 (55%) were completed. While 64 of 80 PCPs surveyed (80%) had some familiarity with the legislation, none identified the 8 required components of notifications contained in the Massachusetts legislation. Forty-nine percent (39/80) did not feel prepared to respond to patient questions about dense breasts. Forty-one percent (33/80) correctly identified that no current guidelines recommend the use of supplemental screening tests solely based on breast density and 85% (68/80) indicated interest in further training. Female and less experienced providers were more likely to be in favor of the legislation (49% vs. 11% by gender; 76% <5 years vs. 9%> 20 years). Women practitioners (55%) who were more likely than men (17%, pā€‰=ā€‰0.01) to agree with the policy changed their discussions of mammography results with patients.


PCPs feel underprepared to counsel women about breast density identified on mammography and its implications.


breast cancer screening; breast density; health policy; primary care

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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