Ladies, did you ever wonder who reads your mammograms?
In the United States, it is a medical doctor with at least four years of additional training in diagnostic radiology. Radiologists at breast centers focus nearly 100 percent of their workday on breast imaging.
The modern breast imager makes diagnoses by reading screening and diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds and MRIs, and performs image-guided biopsies. Breast imagers are required by law to correlate the pathology result with the findings on the imaging study. In this way, breast imagers always see results of the biopsies they perform and are monitoring continuously their accuracy at diagnosis.
In 1987, the American College of Radiology created a voluntary accreditation program to address varying quality of mammography in the United States. The importance of screening mammography — that it reduced death in women by 30 percent compared to women who did not have yearly screening exams — was recognized. With screening mammography, cancers are found when they are smaller and more easily treated. In the 1990s, Congress approved the Mammography Quality Standards Act requiring all mammography facilities to become accredited and certified.
In addition to reading an exam or performing a biopsy, the breast imager's role includes informing patients of their results and making recommendations for appropriate follow-up. If breast cancer is diagnosed, the breast imager ensures that there are no additional sites of cancer in the same breast or the opposite breast. The breast imager "road maps" the breasts so the patient and her surgeon can decide the best treatment options.
Today's breast centers and dedicated breast imagers have advanced breast cancer detection far beyond the days when every lump went to the operating room. Processes are faster, less invasive, less expensive and have spared women from surgery for benign breast disease and multiple surgeries when cancer is diagnosed.