Timeliness of Mammogram Follow-Up Depends on Care

September 12, 2011

Women with abnormal mammogram results got faster follow-up care if additional imaging was the next step than if doctors prescribed a biopsy or surgical consultation, according to a new study in the journal Radiology.

Women with abnormal mammogram results got faster follow-up care if additional imaging was the next step than if doctors prescribed a biopsy or surgical consultation, according to a new study in the journal Radiology. But most patients needing follow-up got it within three weeks of the recommendation, found researchers led by University of New Mexico radiologist Robert D. Rosenberg, MD.

Rosenberg and colleagues aimed to quantify the timeliness of follow-up care in community-based settings among women for whom radiologists recommended immediate follow-up. The team examined screening mammograms from Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium patients 40 to 80 years old from 1996 to 2007. Researchers considered 214,897 recommendations for additional imaging from 118 facilities and 35,622 recommendations for biopsy or surgical consultation from 101 facilities.

The median time to follow-up was 14 days for additional imaging and 16 days for biopsy or surgical consultation, the researchers found, with about 90 percent of imaging follow-up and 81 percent of biopsy or surgical consultations happening within 30 days.

Facilities with higher recall rates generally had longer follow-up times. In general, the pace of consultation for biopsy and surgical consultations improved over the 11-year study.

Time to follow-up varied widely, and was linked to volume - though not the type of facility - suggesting potential for improvement for many of them, the researchers said.