How Electronic Access to Prior Mammograms Can Improve Annual Screening Experience

This post was originally published here.

Our lives are so busy – working, caring for our families and children, being with friends- that we hardly have time to schedule and an annual mammogram screening. Considering that my last blog post was intended for women to think beyond the pink, I wanted to emphasize how women can be in the driver’s seat of their own health by taking one additional – but very essential – step in the breast cancer screening process: helping your radiologist have access to your prior mammograms.  

Breast tissue is different in every woman. Screening mammography, more than any other imaging exam, is highly dependent on comparison with prior mammograms. Despite this, 1 in 4 women do not have their prior mammograms available at the time of the  exam. The current process for locating and retrieving these images is inefficient and often unsuccessful.  In most cases, a woman has  to call her previous imaging providers and request that all prior exams are  uploaded to  a disc and mailed to her  new provider before her mammography appointment.  Oftentimes the new facility will assist in retrieving these studies only after signed consent is obtained.  However, this can take days to weeks, delaying patient care or resulting in the study being read before the prior exam is received. (We radiologists are required by law to read the exam in a certain time-frame, regardless if all the information is there or not!).

If you get a screening without your doctor reviewing  your complete mammogram history (at least for the previous three to five years), the likelihood of false-positive diagnoses increases with unnecessary retesting, procedures and out-of-pocket costs. This results in an unfavorable experience and turns the annual mammogram screening from a routine test to an anxiety-ridden event, that takes time away from family, work and other life commitments.

When you have access to your image history, the experience changes considerably. Your doctor can detect breast cancer 25 percent earlier and reduce false positives and callback exams by 60 percent, and

You can explore more information on the importance of having your prior mammograms available here on the Mammosphere website.



by Kathryn Pearson Peyton