Women's experiences of age‐related discontinuation from mammography screening: A qualitative interview study

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In Denmark, women are discontinued from mammography screening at age 69 due to decreased likelihood of benefits and increased likelihood of harm. The risk of harm increases with age and includes false positives, overdiagnosis and overtreatment. In a questionnaire survey, 24 women expressed unsolicited concerns about being discontinued from mammography screening due to age. This calls for further investigation of experiences related to discontinuation from screening.

We invited the women, who had left comments on the questionnaire, to participate in in-depth interviews with the purpose to explore their reactions, preferences, and conceptions about mammography screening and discontinuation. The interviews lasted 1–4 h and were followed up with a telephone interview 2 weeks after the initial interview.

The women had high expectations of the benefits of mammography screening and felt that participation was a moral obligation. Following that, they perceived the screening discontinuation as a result of societal age discrimination and consequently felt devalued. Further, the women perceived the discontinuation as a health threat, felt more susceptible to late diagnosis and death, and therefore sought out new ways to control their risk of breast cancer.

Our findings indicate that the age-related discontinuation from mammography screening might be of more importance than previously assumed. This study raises important questions about screening ethics, and we encourage research to explore this in other settings.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1096-1106
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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