Many women are aware that annual mammogram screening should begin at age 40 according to American Cancer Society guidelines. This offers the best possible chance for early detection of breast cancer, which improves treatment prospects.
However, there is reason to believe that the quality of mammography results can vary from one radiologist to the next. New research suggests that experience matters when it comes to reading a mammogram.
Researchers have considered many factors affecting the quality of mammogram results. Studies have investigated characteristics of mammogram readers like age, years since receiving a medical degree and volume of mammograms read per year.
Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia and Harvard Medical School in Boston recently looked again into the relationship between mammogram results and reader characteristics.
Radiologists and Mammogram Results
In a study published May 2014 by the Journal of Medical Imaging, a total of 41 radiologists were compared to identify differences in the quality of their mammography interpretation. Of the 41 radiologists, 21 were Australian and 20 were American.
Each radiologist independently reviewed 30 mammograms and their performance was graded according to performance measures of specificity, sensitivity and location sensitivity. Higher volumes of mammograms read per year were associated with mammogram results of higher quality.
“Previous research has indicated that radiologists’ sensitivity performance in reading mammographic images is closely linked to the number of mammographic cases they read per year and less linked to their number of years of experience,” wrote Suleiman et al. “Our work has confirmed this with radiologists who have the highest number of cases per year performing better than those with lower numbers. This confirms the findings of other authors who have suggested that reading more than 2,000 cases per year improves performance.”
At Breastlink, our multidisciplinary breast cancer treatment team includes dedicated breast imaging specialists who commit the majority of their professional attention to reading mammograms and other breast imaging studies.