A decision to undertake screening for breast cancer often takes place within the primary care setting, but current controversies such as overdiagnosis and inconsistent screening recommendations based on evolving evidence render this a challenging process, particularly for average-risk women. Given the responsibility of primary care providers in counseling women in this decision-making process, it is important to understand their thoughts on these controversies and how they manage uncertainty in their practice.
To review the perspectives and approaches of primary care providers regarding mammography decision-making with average-risk women.
This study is a critical interpretive review of peer-review literature that reports primary care provider perspectives on mammography screening decision-making. Ovid MEDLINE®, Ovid PsycInfo, and Scopus databases were searched with dates from 2002 to 2017 using search terms related to mammography screening, uncertainty, counseling, decision-making, and primary health care providers.
Nine articles were included following a review process involving the three authors. Using an inductive and iterative approach, data were grouped into four thematic categories: (1) perceptions on the effectiveness of screening, screening initiation age, and screening frequency; (2) factors guiding primary care providers in the screening decision-making process, including both provider and patient-related factors, (3) uncertainty faced by primary care providers regarding guidelines and screening discussions with their patients; and (4) informed decision-making with average-risk women, including factors that facilitate and hinder this process.
The discussion of results addresses several factors about the diversity of perspectives and practices of physicians counseling average-risk women regarding breast cancer screening. This has implications for the challenge of understanding and explaining evidence, what should be shared with average-risk women considering screening, the forms of knowledge that physicians value to guide screening decision-making, and the consent process for population-based screening initiatives. Within the data, there was little attention placed on how physicians coped with uncertainty in practice. Given the dual responsibility of physicians in caring for both individuals and the larger population, further research should probe more deeply into how they balance their duties to individual patients with those to the larger population they serve.