A recent study about the complexity of the women’s dense breast notifications (DBN) determined that some letters are too complex for the average person to understand, considering that about 20 percent of the population reads below a 5th-grade level.
Researchers analyzed the mandatory letters in 23 states and found that most of them had poorly understandable levels, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Only three states had reading levels at 8 or below, which were some of the states with the lowest literacy.
Jersey and Connecticut presented reading levels for postgraduates and in other cases like in Alabama, its letter was more comprehensible for the average person. The lack of understandability could have significant results in the women who can perceive a misunderstanding and not take important actions.
The team concluded that there was a significant variation among the readability and content of the letters between the states, considering that some had mandatory complexity in their notifications aimed to address the misinterpretations.
“Efforts should focus on enhancing the understandability of the DBN so that all women are clearly and accurately informed about their density status, its effect on their breast cancer risk, and the harms and benefits of supplemental screening,” the authors cowncluded.
In addition, the information presented also change from letter to letter. Some states mentioned the increased cancer risk or recommended additional screening while others advised women to consult their physician and get further information. None of the letters showed uniformity, as reported by NPR.
“Increased anxiety and confusion”
But as important as women not taking action from the letter’s recommendation and important risk is that women can overdo screening due to some brought out worries. Lead author, Nancy Kressin, director of the Health and Healthcare Disparities Research Program at the Boston University School of Medicine, said that for women with low levels of literacy who are already less likely to get preventive screening, the complex letter could increase anxiety and confusion.
The goal of the DBN is to get every woman to consult with her doctor about her particular cancer risk and the answer may just be that no more screening is necessary, and Kressin believes that those conversations should include benefits and possible harms of additional screening such as increased exposure to radiation, additional cost, anxiety and even unneeded biopsies.