Clinicians Believe Link Between Breast Pain, Cancer Is Weak

But many order imaging to exclude malignancy or for reassurance only

MONDAY, May 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Although most believe that the correlation between breast pain and breast cancer is weak, many referring clinicians will order imaging, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society, held from May 5 to 10 in Honolulu.

Karen Zheng, M.D., from Emory University in Atlanta, and colleagues compared the approach to the imaging evaluation of breast pain of referring clinicians to that of radiologists, who were surveyed earlier. One hundred eleven clinicians participated in an online survey with 11 questions.

The researchers found that 72 and 23 percent of respondents believed there is a weak and neutral correlation, respectively, between breast pain and breast cancer. Forty-eight, 26, and 25 percent of clinicians ordered imaging to exclude malignancy, for reassurance only, and to assess the breast tissue for the cause of pain. For patients with diffuse, unilateral pain, single-quadrant pain, and focal pain, more than 66 percent of referring clinicians felt that imaging was required. For patients aged <30 with diffuse bilateral intermittent pain, more clinicians than radiologists would order imaging (23 versus 12 percent). For patients aged >40 years with focal, constant pain, 35 percent of clinicians versus 71 percent of radiologists would order combined mammogram and focused ultrasound. For single-quadrant and focal pain, 80 percent of referring clinicians order some type of imaging.

"More education is needed for clinicians in the types of breast pain that warrant an imaging workup and what type of imaging to order," the authors write.

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