Doctors encourage mammograms in dying patients

Leach's team based their findings on a national survey of 1,200 primary care doctors who were presented with several hypothetical patients and asked whether they would recommend mammography screening.

The "patients" were either 50, 65 or 80 years old, and either in good health, diagnosed with heart disease, or in the advanced stages of lung cancer.

Overall, 48 percent of doctors said they would recommend a screening mammogram to a woman with terminal lung cancer -- though that percentage went down the older the woman was. It also varied by the doctor's specialty.

Among internists, for example, 32 percent would recommend a mammogram to a 50-year-old lung cancer patient, while 11 percent would do so if the woman was 80 years old. Obstetricians/gynecologists were more likely to advise mammograms: 65 percent would for a 50-year-old with lung cancer, and 37 percent for an 80-year-old.

A caveat, Leach said, is that doctors were responding to hypothetical scenarios. So the study does not necessarily capture what's happening in actual practice.

Leach said that more studies are needed to see how often screening mammography is actually recommended and performed in terminally ill women.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/lri9pU Cancer, online June 16, 2011. =

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