The reliability of mammography results varies significantly between medical facilities, according to new research published in a recent edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI). Even more importantly, certain organizational characteristics tend to predict which facilities will return a more accurate reading.
While numerous previous studies have indicated that interpretive accuracy varies greatly among radiologists, this study actually demonstrates that accuracy varies among mammography facilities.
In this latest study, serious variations in the number of women testing negative for cancer; the number with positive results who were actually positive; and the likelihood of cancer among women referred for biopsy were noted between facilities. Researchers determined that there were reliable characteristics that explained some of the differences. That determination means not only that problematic facilities can be avoided, but that all facilities can begin adopting characteristics associated with better performance.
Those medical facilities with better interpretive accuracy generally performed mammography screening only, employed a breast imaging specialist to read the mammograms, did not perform double readings, and conducted audit reviews at least every six months.
The central message of the research is that more people should ask whether a radiologist devotes substantial amounts of time to reading mammograms. The presence of a breast imaging specialist was consistently associated with better performance.
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