After treatment for breast cancer, most women receive an annual surveillance mammography to look for subsequent breast cancers. Supplemental breast MRI is sometimes used in addition to mammography despite the lack of clinical evidence for it. Breast imaging after cancer treatment is an emotionally charged experience, an important part of survivorship care, and a topic about which limited patient information exists. We assessed women's experiences and preferences about breast cancer surveillance imaging with the goal of determining where gaps in care and knowledge could be filled.
PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS
We conducted six focus groups with a convenience sample of 41 women in California, North Carolina, and New Hampshire (USA). Participants were aged 38-75 years, had experienced stage 0-III breast cancer within the previous 5 years, and had completed initial treatment. We used inductive thematic analysis to identify key themes from verbatim transcripts.
Women reported various types and frequencies of surveillance imaging and a range of surveillance imaging experiences and preferences. Many women experienced discomfort during breast imaging and anxiety related to the examination, primarily because they feared subsequent cancer detection. Women reported trust in their providers and relied on providers for imaging decision-making. However, women wanted more information about the treatment surveillance transition to improve their care.
There is significant opportunity in breast cancer survivorship care to improve women's understanding about breast cancer surveillance imaging and to provide enhanced support to them at the time their initial treatment ends and at the time of surveillance imaging examinations.