Younger Docs Misread Mammograms

Study finds interpretation of mammograms varies among younger doctors.
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If you fret over getting an accurate reading of your mammogram, you may want to make sure the radiologist reading it has a few years of experience.

A report by the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle found that the ability to accurately interpret breast cancer screening mammograms varies widely and that younger, more recently trained radiologists had two to four times more false-positive interpretations than older radiologists.

Researchers examined results of 8,734 screening mammograms from 2,169 women over an eight-and-a-half year period. Their findings:

  • Women who were younger, premenopausal, or taking hormone replacement therapy were more likely to get a false-positive result, as were women with a family history of breast cancer or a previous biopsy. (A false-positive reading is when a doctor reports seeing suspicious lesions when none are present.)
  • A false-positive result was also more likely for women who had mammograms in the 1990s than women who had mammograms in the 1980s This variability could be accounted for by the radiologist's age, gender, and number of years since graduating from medical school. Younger, more recently trained radiologists had two to four times the number of false-positive readings than radiologists who graduated more than 15 years prior to the study.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, October 2002.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your loved one's condition.

 

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