Studies show that waiting for mammogram results can be an anxious time for women and some will postpone getting this important breast cancer screening exam just to avoid that anxiety. Scottsdale Medical Imaging (SMIL) radiologists, American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure all recommend annual mammograms for all women over 40 to help detect breast cancer at its earliest stage.
However, we know for some women that is not as easy as it sounds because of the fear associated with mammogram results. At SMIL, we have addressed this concern and have taken steps so that patients can receive same day answers for mammograms. Here are a few commonly asked questions about how we help alleviate anxiety and improve the breast cancer screening process with same day answers.
Q: What would you tell those women who are anxious about hearing their mammogram results?
A: Let’s look first at some numbers: About one woman in every eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Mammograms do not prevent the disease, but many regard them as a life-saving test because of the potential to detect breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages. An estimated 28 million women have mammograms annually but less than 10 percent show some abnormality. Of those, about 94 percent are found not to be cancer after some further breast imaging and breast cancer detection tests.
These are compelling numbers but a Harvard study of 72,000 women showed only a fraction of those women who needed mammograms actually got them each year. We know that anxiety about mammogram results is one thing that increases reluctance to either get screened or continue regular screening. It’s called “anticipatory anxiety.” Every woman is different, but we hear some patients talk about their anxiety even when they are preparing to hear good news. At the same time as providing the very best breast imaging available, as physicians, we should be doing all we can to lessen anxiety in our patients.
Q: How can anxiety be reduced and breast cancer screening improved with same day answers?
A: How a woman feels about her mammogram experience is a significant factor in whether she will continue to get regular breast cancer screenings. A negative experience will sometimes even discourage her from getting extremely important follow-up or “diagnostic” imaging. About 9 percent of women who have something abnormal in their first mammogram results do not report for follow-up. A major component of how women rate their mammogram experience is how quickly results are given.
A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute divided 2,300 women into two groups. One group was given same day answers for their mammogram results while the second group was given an education pamphlet, a video explaining the meaning of “false positive” and strategies for coping with anxiety on the day of their mammgram. Only the group that received same day mammogram results reported lower levels of anxiety. For these reasons a few specialized radiology groups around the country have now committed to offering same day answers for mammogram results. For example, at any one of our breast imaging centers, we now offer same day answers – Get A Mammo - SMIL gives every woman her screening results approximately 15 minutes after completing her exam.
Q: We are all in favor of less worry and more convenience, but how are same day answers advancing women’s healthcare?
A: There is no question that for breast screening patients who have work, childcare or other scheduling limitations, knowing they can complete their study in one quick visits is a huge convenience. However, this is a commitment beyond simple convenience for busy patients. Radiology groups offering same day answers for their communities expect to see it improve the percentage of women willing to get screened. There is an even bigger advantage when you add same-day follow-up imaging. For years women have been expected to wait for their breast cancer screening results, often for days and often by mail. Should those results appear abnormal, she will be asked to come back for follow-up imaging and may need to wait even longer to schedule this appointment.
By offering same-day follow-up exams, days of uncertainty and waiting are condensed into just hours and minutes, significantly reducing the fear factor which leads some women to delay or even avoid vital follow-up. At our practice, patients can now get their screening results within minutes, and if follow-up is needed, there’s no need for separate appointments or visits. You can get diagnostics imaging, breast ultrasound and your answers that very same day as well. The ultimate result is that with more women screened and all getting the recommended additional recommended workups, more cancers will be detected at a very treatable stage and that represents significant potential in saving more women’s lives.