About half of women who routinely get mammograms have not heard of the term "baseline mammogram," a recent study suggests. Baseline mammograms have been shown to reduce the odds of false-positive results in future mammograms, the study authors noted September 12 online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Studies have shown that having a baseline mammogram, the first screening mammogram, available for comparison at the time of interpreting a subsequent mammogram significantly decreases the potential of a false-positive examination. We aimed to evaluate knowledge of and perception about the significance of baseline mammograms in those women undergoing screening mammography.

"Helping women understand that they can play a role in making sure radiologists have their baseline mammogram (and all prior mammograms) enables them to play an active role in optimizing their breast cancer screening experience," said Dr. Elizabeth Burnside of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, who was not involved in the study.

Breast cancer screening

"Also, the baseline mammogram is the first opportunity to determine a woman's breast density," Burnside told Reuters Health by email. For the study, Dr. Robert Horsley of the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, and colleagues surveyed more than 400 women in 2017 about their attitudes and beliefs regarding baseline mammography.

Nearly all of the women had had a mammogram at least once in the past. About 77% reported having yearly mammograms, and 31% reported having a history of abnormal findings on a mammogram.

The research team found that 46% of the women hadn't heard the term "baseline mammogram." And 61% didn't think to have a baseline mammogram was important for decreasing the cost, time, discomfort and unnecessary biopsies that may occur when mammograms are incorrectly interpreted as abnormal.

"These knowledge gaps highlight educational opportunities to improve women's understanding of having a baseline mammogram available for comparison to allow for optimal breast cancer screening," the research team writes.

Complete and balanced information about breast cancer screening includes understanding the importance of baseline mammography, Burnside said. In a group of educated women who routinely get mammograms, almost one-half had not heard the term baseline mammogram.

Furthermore, most women did not think baseline mammography was important for decreasing associated cost, time, and discomfort due to mammograms incorrectly read as abnormal.

This study suggests that efforts to improve women’s understanding of baseline mammograms and their importance are warranted, with the greatest opportunity for health care providers and radiologists.