Dr. Erin Marcus will be the first to tell you that medicine is not a cut-and-dried field.
Information, she says, has to be conveyed in a way that patients can understand it.
To bridge that gap, Marcus, a breast cancer researcher with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami, is producing informational videos that break down the concept of “breast density” into neutral terms that don’t frighten the patient. Density refers to the opacity of breast tissue.
“It’s sort of an empowerment intervention so people can understand their results better … and not be upset or panicked or flummoxed when they’re told, ‘You have dense breasts,’” she said.
The video, which Marcus said will be shown in waiting rooms at Sylvester and be made available to other cancer centers, informs viewers that about 50 percent of women have dense breasts. Breast density, it continues, can require additional mammography images, which Marcus said is “quite common.”
For every 1,000 women who have a screening mammogram, 10 percent will be called back for another look, according to the American College of Radiology.
Sylvester focus groups determined that while screening recipients understood the importance of following up, they became anxious at doing so.
The focus groups, comprised of 25 women, indicated that testimonials would be most effective at relaying the message that breast density is not something to fear.
Wilette Whitfield-Smith is among the five women who provided testimonials in the video’s English-language version.She wanted to participate, she said, because informing others made her feel empowered.
“If I could do anything to … ease the fear of a woman not only having a mammogram, but knowing what more specific questions to ask before, during and after, I wanted to do my part,” Whitfield-Smith said in an email.
Both videos are narrated by Sylvester radiologist Dr. Monica Yepes, who, as a native Spanish-speaker, wrote the script for the video’s Spanish-language version, which features two women.
Luz Ballesteros is one of them.
Ballesteros, 50, said she wanted to help inform other Hispanic women who may not be familiar with breast density. She also wanted to embolden Hispanic women to be proactive about their breast health.
“I wanted to tell them to don’t be scared because having dense breasts is not the end,” she said in an email. “What it means is that we need to be more [cautious] in examining our breast(s) … and have a mammogram every year to be able to detect any changes earlier.”
Marcus said the video will be available as an educational resource for anyone who wants it.