Factors Influencing Overuse of Breast Cancer Screening: A Systematic Review

Ritu Sharma, Jean Pannikottu, Yunwen Xu, Monica Tung, Stephanie Nothelle, Allison H. Oakes, Jodi B. Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Excessive breast cancer screening with mammography or other modalities often burdens patients with false-positive results and costs. Yet, screening patients beyond the age at which they will benefit or at too frequent intervals persists. This review summarizes the factors associated with overuse of breast cancer screening. Methods: We searched Medline and Embase from January 1998 to March 2017 for articles addressing the overuse of breast cancer screening and hand-searched the reference lists of included articles. Studies were included if they were written in English, pertained to a U.S. population, and identified a factor associated specifically with overuse of breast imaging. Paired reviewers independently screened abstracts, extracted data, and assessed quality. Results: We included 15 studies: 3 cohort, 5 cross-sectional, 6 surveys, and 1 in-depth interview. White women (non-Hispanic) were less vulnerable than other racial groups to overuse in 3 of 5 studies. Physician specialty was consistently associated with screening overuse in three of three studies. Abundant access to primary care and a patient desire for screening were associated with breast cancer screening overuse. Lower self-confidence, lower risk taking tendencies, higher perception of conflict in expert recommendations, and a belief in screening effectiveness were clinician traits associated with overuse of screening in the surveys. Conclusions: The literature supports that liberal access to care and clinicians' recommendations to screen, possibly influenced by conflicting guidelines, increase excessive breast cancer screening. Overuse might conceivably be reduced with more concordance across guidelines, physician education, patient involvement in decision-making, thoughtful insurance restrictions, and limitations on the supply of services; however, these will need careful testing regarding their impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1151
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • breast cancer
  • overuse
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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