For Immediate Release
Selecting A Mammography Center
What to Consider for this Important Annual Exam
“A mammogram, along with a monthly self-exam, are a woman’s best defense against breast cancer after age 35,” says Rebecca Zuurbier, M.D., director of Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Center at Georgetown University, who screens hundreds of women each year for early signs of breast cancer.
While selecting a medical practice for your mammogram is an important decision, evaluating your options and making the right choice can be difficult. “Feeling comfortable with your radiologist and practice group is important,” she say, “but focusing on a few other important factors also is helpful.” Here’s what to consider:
Specialization in Mammography. Is the practice dedicated to mammography in particular or do they handle a large volume of the procedures? In general, the more mammography a practice handles, the better they will be at reading your film. Specialists who read breast films every day are attuned to the subtle details that may signal a problem. At the same time, they also understand the normal variations in breast images that mean nothing at all. So, you will not worry needlessly.
Additional Mammography Training. While most radiologists are well qualified to perform mammography, some have special training in the discipline as a sub-specialty. With such a practice, you enjoy the benefits of their added qualifications and experience.
Radiologists On Site. Sometimes mammography films are shot in one location and read in another. Because you will never meet your doctor, you may find this an impersonal approach. Also, if additional films are required or you have questions, you may have to make a trip back.
New Mammography Technologies. Is the facility using up-to-the-minute equipment? For example, a new FDA-approved alternative to the lightbox, the SmartLight Digital Film Viewer, allows the radiologist to see more of the details actually on a mammography film by creating optimal film reading conditions. It also has several other features that allow doctors to conduct a more thorough reading of a mammogram. The traditional lightbox creates glare and can bleach out much of the information actually captured on film.
Specially Trained Technologists. An x-ray technologist actually shoot the film the radiologist reads. Technologists with strong backgrounds in mammography will be particularly skilled at shooting even difficult films correctly, avoiding unnecessary retakes. If your case has any special requirements, they will know just what additional films are needed.
Affiliation the NCI. Is the facility affiliated with the National Cancer Institute? This government agency oversees cancer research, instruction and treatment centers. A relationship with the NCI means the practice is in the forefront of the fight against cancer.
Patient Education and Counseling. Woman can play an active and helpful role in their own healthcare, if desired. Providing patient information may reflect this philosophy and indicate a high level of involvement in the fight against breast cancer.
“If you have identified breast cancer risk factors, you might consider seeking out a multi-disciplinary breast center,” advises Zuurbier. Such a center typically has radiologists, a full range of physicians, counselors and nurses on staff. A nurse or technologist often conducts a physical breast exam in conjunction with your annual mammogram and gets to know what is normal for you. These centers usually also provide risk assessment and genetic counseling and have breast surgeons and oncologists available to provide you with information and care if needed.