Trials of risk estimation in breast cancer screening programmes, in order to identify women at higher risk and offer extra screening/preventive measures, are ongoing. It may also be feasible to introduce less frequent screening for women at low-risk of breast cancer. This study aimed to establish views of women at low-risk of breast cancer regarding the acceptability of extending breast screening intervals for low-risk women beyond 3 y.
Semi-structured interviews were used to explore views of low-risk women, where “low-risk” was defined as less than 2% estimated 10-year risk of breast cancer aged > 46 years. Low-risk women were identified via the BC-Predict study, where following routine screening, women were given their 10-year risk of breast cancer by letter, along with additional information explaining breast cancer risk factors. To gain diversity of views, purposive sampling by ethnicity and socioeconomic background was used to recruit women. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Twenty-three women participated in individual interviews. Three themes are reported: (1) A good opportunity to receive risk estimation, where women found it worthwhile to receive a low-risk result although some were surprised if expecting a higher risk result; (2) Multi-faceted acceptability of extended screening intervals, with reactions to less frequent screening dependent on whether women were confident in being low-risk status and current safety evidence, (3) Passive approval versus informed choice, highlighting that women found it difficult to consider choosing less frequent screening without professionals’ recommendations, as they generally viewed attending breast screening as positive.
Risk assessment and receiving a low-risk of breast cancer is acceptable although, further research is required with more diverse samples of women. Any recommendation of less frequent screening in this risk group should be evidence-based in order to be acceptable. Communication needs to be carefully developed, with a focus on ensuring informed choice, prior to trialling any extended screening recommendations in future studies.