Breast health

How ObGyns can best work with radiologists to optimize screening for patients with dense breasts

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Join forces with imaging centers

2. How can ObGyns and radiologists collaborate most effectively to use screening results to personalize breast care for patients?

Dr. Etkin-Kramer: It is important to have a close relationship with the radiologists that read our patients’ mammograms. We need to be able to easily contact the radiologist and quickly get clarification on a patient’s report or discuss next steps. Imaging centers should consider running outreach programs to educate their referring providers on how to risk assess, with this assessment inclusive of breast density. Dinner lectures or grand round meetings are effective to facilitate communication between the radiology community and the ObGyn community. Finally, as we all know, supplemental screening is often subject to copays and deductibles per insurance coverage. If advocacy groups, who are working to eliminate these types of costs, cannot get insurers to waive these payments, we need a less expensive self-pay option.

Dr. Albright: I definitely have and encourage an open line of communication between my practice and breast radiology, as well as our breast surgeons and cancer center to set up consultations as needed. We also invite our radiologists as guests to monthly practice meetings or grand rounds within our department to further improve access and open communication, as this environment is one in which greater provider education on density and adjunctive screening can be achieved.

Know when to refer a high-risk patient

3. Most ObGyns routinely collect family history and perform formal risk assessment. What do you need to know about referring patients to a high-risk program?

Dr. Etkin-Kramer: It is important as ObGyns to be knowledgeable about breast and ovarian cancer risk assessment and genetic testing for cancer susceptibility genes. Our patients expect that of us. I am comfortable doing risk assessment in my office, but I sometimes refer to other specialists in the community if the patient needs additional counseling. For risk assessment, I look at family and personal history, breast density, and other factors that might lead me to believe the patient might carry a hereditary cancer susceptibility gene, including Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.1 When indicated, I check lifetime as well as short-term (5- to 10-year) risk, usually using Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) or Tyrer-Cuzick/International Breast Cancer Intervention Study (IBIS) models, as these include breast density.

I discuss risk-reducing medications. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends these agents if my patient’s 5-year risk of breast cancer is 1.67% or greater, and I strongly recommend chemoprevention when the patient’s 5-year BCSC risk exceeds 3%, provided likely benefits exceed risks.2,3 I discuss adding screening breast MRI if lifetime risk by Tyrer-Cuzick exceeds 20%. (Note that Gail and BCSC models are not recommended to be used to determine risk for purposes of supplemental screening with MRI as they do not consider paternal family history nor age of relatives at diagnosis.)

Dr. Albright: ObGyns should be able to ascertain a pertinent history and identify patients at risk for breast cancer based on their personal history, family history, and breast imaging/biopsy history, if relevant. We also need to improve our discussions of supplemental screening for patients who have heterogeneously dense or extremely dense breast tissue. I sense that some ObGyns may rely heavily on the radiologist to suggest supplemental screening, but patients actually look to Ob­Gyns as their providers to have this knowledge and give them direction.

Since I practice at a large academic medical center, I have the opportunity to refer patients to our Breast Cancer Genetics Program because I may be limited on time for counseling in the office and do not want to miss salient details. With all of the information I have ascertained about the patient, I am able to determine and encourage appropriate screening and assure insurance coverage for adjunctive breast MRI when appropriate.

Continue to: Consider how you order patients’ screening to reduce barriers and cost...


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