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MU Study Finds Most Women Receive Breast Cancer Diagnoses by Phone

The MU School of Medicine released a study revealing an increase in the number of women receiving breast cancer diagnoses over the past 11 years.

Since 2007, the percentage of women receiving their diagnoses over the phone has increased for 25 percent to over 60 percent. 

Lead author Professor Jane McElroy said the study, released September 11, was originally designed to find women with breast cancer who were sexual minorities.

“We didn’t do the study for [to find what we did], to explore that whole concept," McElroy said. "It was for another reason but one of our questions that we’d asked women who had breast cancer was about how they heard the news. So this ended up being a bit of an opportunistic finding in the sense that we weren’t looking for this. So we were quite surprised when we had the findings.”

The researchers sent out a survey reaching almost 2,900 patients diagnosed between 1967 and 2017. The patients were self-reporting, so the data can’t be extrapolated to the general public, but McElroy says clinicians can use the data to tailor already existing protocols to reflect how women receive their diagnoses.

“So if you’re catching someone on a cell phone and they’re dashing out to pick up their child at school, they pick up the phone they probably won’t have time to talk. So that length of time may have shifted from the physician has enough time to talk to the patient and now it’s maybe the patient has enough time to, to talk to the physician about their issue.”

Professor Katie Heiden Rootes at Saint Louis University helped McElroy with the data.

"In terms of like the trend that we saw, what does that mean about our social world?" Heiden Rootes said. "What does that mean about how the delivery of care is changing or the expectations of patients are changing? And so really looking over the results there’s a lot of like, ‘OK here’s what we’re kind of seeing on the ground, here’s what the numbers say.’ What do we think that might mean about how care is changing?”

Heiden Rootes said the study enters some uncharted territory, but that the researchers wanted to be conservative in what conclusions they made.

She said, “I mean, that’s the careful part of it. You don’t want to lead too far away from the data. But you also want to offer some ideas about possibilities for future research or places to start to investigate.”

Researchers from Creighton University and Syracuse University also contributed to the study.