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Diagnostic Mammogram Readings Vary by Radiologist
Date:12/11/2007

Radiologists' experience and affiliation often influenced results, study found

TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Radiologists are human, too, and vary widely in their interpretations of diagnostic mammograms, a new study found.

The differences weren't due to differences in patients so much as they were due to differences in the radiologists' experience and affiliation.

The authors of the study, published in the Dec. 11 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, did find certain factors that predicted more accurate mammography readings.

"This is a little bit of a warning that there is a wide variation," said Diana Miglioretti, study lead author and an associate investigator at Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle. "If possible, go to a facility with a breast-imaging specialist, someone who also does biopsies and ultrasounds."

"You definitely want to have radiologists interpreting mammograms who do a substantial number of mammograms in a year -- that's number one," added Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La. "Number two, you want to make sure that they read mammograms in a continuum so that they have previous mammograms to read it against. That's why I encourage patients to stay in one system where X-rays are looked at longitudinally. The third thing is that the radiologist is not reading this by him or herself, that there are other radiologists that can come into the room and look at the films."

Previous studies have also shown variability in how radiologists interpret mammograms, but those studies primarily involved screening mammograms. Diagnostic mammograms are performed after an abnormality of some kind has already been detected either from a screening mammogram or a physical exam.

The accuracy of diagnostic mammograms is extremely important, given that the rate of breast cancer is 10 ti
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