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Screening and Diagnostic Services for People at Risk of Breast Cancer: A Rapid Qualitative Review

Last updated: October 31, 2019
Project Number: RC1208-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Devices and Systems
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report


  1. How do people at risk of breast cancer understand, communicate, experience, and make decisions to undergo screening and diagnostic services in rural or urban settings?
  2. How do families, caregivers, and health care providers who care for people at risk of breast cancer, understand, communicate, experience, and make decisions regarding screening and diagnostic services in rural or urban settings?

Key Message

When determining whether, or when, to engage with breast cancer screening or diagnostic mammography, women indicated these decisions could be impacted by logistical challenges of attendance. These could include where one lived in relation to screening centres, the scheduling flexibility of screening centres, other life plans (e.g. upcoming vacation), and the ability to navigate daily responsibilities such as work or childcare. While screening for breast cancer was often understood as a choice, women described feeling as though it were more of a responsibility to attend than an option. Trust in the health care system broadly, and primary care providers specifically, played a pivotal role in the decision to pursue screening, or not. This included more than direct experiences with breast cancer screening or diagnostic services. It was also possible for women to rely on their own knowledge of their bodies and desire to control what happens to them. Decisions to engage with available screening services could also be influenced by whether people were aware of the screening services available to them or what breast cancer screening guidelines recommended, as well as how people perceived the potential for screening and diagnostic mammography to impact their lives. Women described learning about the services available to them and the importance (or not) of engaging with them through the experiential knowledge of mothers or friends. It was important for women to feel comfortable with the individuals conducting the screening and the attention paid to their concerns while undergoing screening.