New Study Downplays Link Between Breast Pain and Need for Additional Diagnostic Imaging

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Breast pain alone is not necessarily an underlying indication of breast cancer, say Boston University researchers; thus, physicians who order repeat diagnostic studies for women exhibiting this lone symptom may not be doing them any good.

Their findings were published this month in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and represent yet another call for the judicious requisitioning of repeat diagnostic imaging studies.

The study population comprised 916 women referred to Boston Medical Center for breast pain from 2006 to 2009.

While citing a need for preferred practice guidelines in treating women with breast pain, authors of the study say additional diagnostic imaging procedures beyond routine mammography do not necessarily reassure patients whose pain is not localized.

In the cases of women "who had a completely normal breast examination," the ordering of additional tests "did have a potential negative side, including additional doctor visits, more mammograms and other tests as well as more biopsies," according to a BU press release.

“We hope this study is a first step in providing better direction for managing women with breast pain, and hopefully emphasizing that additional imaging studies are not indicated in women unless there is a focal breast complaint, such as a mass or lump,” said Mary Beth Howard, MS, lead author of the study, in the same release.