Reflections from Women with an Interval Breast Cancer Diagnosis: A Qualitative Analysis of Open Disclosure in the BreastScreen Western Australia Program

Document Type : Research Articles


1 National School of Medicine, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

2 Breast Screen Western Australia, Women and Newborn Health Service, Perth, WA, Australia.

3 Sydney School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, NSW and The Daffodil Centre, the University of Sydney, a joint venture with Cancer Council NSW, Australia.

4 School of Medicine, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western, Australia.


Background: ‘Interval breast cancer’ describes a malignancy that is diagnosed after a negative screening mammogram. Open disclosure is a process of addressing a negative health outcome that includes an apology and an opportunity for the client to discuss concerns. BreastScreen Western Australia has implemented a policy of open disclosure. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of clients’ experience with interval cancer and their attitude towards the screening programme by conducting a thematic analysis of written responses from women participating in the open disclosure process. Methods: Women experiencing an interval cancer diagnosis between 2011 and 2020 were sent a questionnaire by mail. It included two broad questions with free-text responses. A qualitative analysis of the responses was conducted using an inductive approach. Responses were de-identified and data were thematically analysed and presented using verbatim quotations. Results: Five themes emerged in response to “what could we have done better?”: ‘nothing,’ ‘broaden scope,’ ‘service delivery,’ ‘breast density education’ and ‘more education’ generally. Six themes emerged in response to “what did we do well?”: ‘staffing,’ ‘overall satisfaction,’ ‘reminders,’ ‘follow-up after interval cancer,’ ‘efficiency’ and ‘information and education provision.’ An additional theme of ‘storytelling’ emerged from both questions: an opportunity for the woman to share her experience of cancer. Conclusion: Most women expressed positive attitudes towards the service and appreciated giving feedback in the open disclosure process. Several themes supporting the role of BreastScreen in education were identified, including providing information about breast density, breast health, and limitations of screening. 


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