News | December 13, 2007

Radiologist Experience Relates to Accuracy of Diagnostic Mammograms

December 14, 2007 – According to a study published in the Dec. 11 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, interpretation of diagnostic mammograms varies widely, not because of patient variation but possibly by differences in radiologist experience, influencing clinical decisions affecting large numbers of women.

Researchers investigated radiologist attributes, such as experience and whether the radiologist was working in an academic medical center, in relation to accuracy of diagnostic mammogram interpretation.

According to Medical News Today, the investigation gathered data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium on 36,000 diagnostic mammograms interpreted by 123 radiologists working at 72 facilities.

Researchers found:
-5 percent of radiologists had been interpreting mammograms for at least 10 years
-87 percent of them spent less than 40 percent of their time interpreting mammograms
-About 25 percent of them worked on no more than 100 mammograms a year
-The median age of the radiologist group was 49 years
-75 percent of them were male

Results showed varied by the performance of the radiologists, leading to no consistent link with patient characteristics. Radiologists who were in academic settings were more likely to diagnose a cancer correctly and were less likely to give a false positive diagnosis.

Radiologists with more experience were more likely to recommend a biopsy, while radiologists who took a longer interpretation time usually had a lower threshold.

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