"If we do not address the issues causing the staffing shortage, more facilities will close and screening will become more centralised, perhaps making screening and diagnostic mammography impossible for some women," said the study's lead author, Carl D'Orsi, M.D., professor of radiology and director of the Breast Imaging Center at Emory University in Atlanta.
A 2001-2002 survey of 45 mammography facilities in three states (Washington, New Hampshire and Colorado) found that 44 percent did not have enough radiologists on staff to meet the demand for mammography services.
Twenty percent of facilities reported a shortage of Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) qualified technologists, and 46 percent reported difficulty in maintaining qualified technologists.
The survey also found that 85 percent of the facilities reported being able to schedule diagnostic mammograms within one week of a request, while only 30 percent of facilities had the ability to schedule screening mammograms within a week.
47 percent reported a wait of two or more weeks for screening mammography. In high-volume facilities, the scheduling delays for both diagnostic and screening mammography were two to three times higher than in low-volume facilities, with some facilities reporting waiting times of up to four weeks for a diagnostic mammogram.
The facilities surveyed represent distinct regions of the country. They are part of a breast cancer consortium with access to a great amount of data. "The fact that this is a community-based report that fits the profile of the rest of the country indicates that our results are reflective of national trends," D'Orsi said.
With fewer radiologists, community facilities will not be able to meet the increasing demand for mammography services, leading to further delays in diagnosis and a potential increase in interpretive errors.
MEDICA.de; Source: Radiological Society of North America