Breast Biopsy Anxiety Drops with Good Communication

April 2, 2013

Better communication between radiologists and patients undergoing image-guided breast biopsies results in lower anxiety before and after the procedure.

Women who perceived better communication with their radiologists before undergoing image-guided breast biopsies expressed lower levels of anxiety both before and after the biopsies, according to a study published online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Concern about undergoing a breast biopsy could affect whether women follow through with recommendations. To determine if the perception of communication between patients and radiologists played a role in increasing compliance, researchers evaluated 138 women who had been recommended to undergo imaging-guided breast procedures. The procedures included ultrasound-guided or stereotactic-guided core-needle breast biopsies or ultrasound-guided diagnostic cyst aspiration.

The women completed questionnaires regarding their perceived communication with the radiologists who recommended the procedures, and they completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (range, 20 to 80) immediately prior to their biopsy. Following the procedure, the women completed the same anxiety survey and rated the communication with the radiologist who performed the biopsy. The researchers also noted the experience levels of the radiologists who recommended and performed the biopsies.

The findings showed that average anxiety rating before biopsy was 44.5, dropping to 37.2 following the biopsy. The perceived communication with the referring radiologist rated at an average of 52.4.

Better communication with radiologists who performed the biopsies (mean 57.8) was associated with lower post-biopsy anxiety after accounting for patients' baseline anxiety levels. White women reported higher anxiety levels both pre- and post-biopsy, while nonwhite women reported poorer communications with the recommending radiologists.

The researchers concluded that the patients’ perceptions regarding the quality of their communication were associated with their reported levels of anxiety before and after the biopsies. Better communication resulted in lower anxiety, they said, adding, “These results have implications for radiologist training and adherence to mammographic screening.”