Overdetection in breast cancer screening: development and preliminary evaluation of a decision aid.BMJ Open 2014; 4(9):e006016BO
To develop, pilot and refine a decision aid (ahead of a randomised trial evaluation) for women around age 50 facing their initial decision about whether to undergo mammography screening.
Two-stage mixed-method pilot study including qualitative interviews (n=15) and a randomised comparison using a quantitative survey (n=34).
New South Wales, Australia.
Women aged 43-59 years with no personal history of breast cancer.
The decision aid provides evidence-based information about important outcomes of mammography screening over 20 years (breast cancer mortality reduction, overdetection and false positives) compared with no screening. The information is presented in a short booklet for women, combining text and visual formats. A control version produced for the purposes of comparison omits the overdetection-related content.
Comprehension of key decision aid content and acceptability of the materials.
Most women considered the decision aid clear and helpful and would recommend it to others. Nonetheless, the piloting process raised important issues that we tried to address in iterative revisions. Some participants found it hard to understand overdetection and why it is of concern, while there was often confusion about the distinction between overdetection and false positives. In a screening context, encountering balanced information rather than persuasion appears to be contrary to people's expectations, but women appreciated the opportunity to become better informed.
The concept of overdetection is complex and new to the public. This study highlights some key challenges for communicating about this issue. It is important to clarify that overdetection differs from false positives in terms of its more serious consequences (overtreatment and associated harms). Screening decision aids also must clearly explain their purpose of facilitating informed choice. A staged approach to development and piloting of decision aids is recommended to further improve understanding of overdetection and support informed decision-making about screening.