When you make an appointment to get a mammogram, these common questions come to mind: Will it hurt? When can I get my results? How long will this take? How often should I have this done? I’m here to tell you that there’s one question that should be common, yet for most women it doesn’t even cross their minds.
The question you should be asking about your mammogram is this: WHO is going to read my mammogram?
It might be surprising for some to learn that it is not your primary care physician who reads your mammogram. It’s a radiologist, and it matters what kind of radiologist it is.
Why is this important? Well, think about a chef who went to culinary school and learned about all the different styles of cooking and the cultures that inspired each one. Now imagine a second chef who went to culinary school and then took a year to specifically study French cuisine. The first chef will have a relatively good understanding of French cuisine, but the second chef will have a much greater depth of knowledge about this particular style of cooking.
As with the chefs, the same is true for radiologists. A general radiologist goes through training that covers breast, head, upper body, lower body, brain, etc. A breast radiologist goes through that same training and then completes an additional year-long Fellowship training program to study breast imaging in-depth. This would be known as a fellowship-trained or subspecialized breast radiologist.
Breast radiologists spend the bulk of their day making decisions about — you guessed it — the breast. Consequently, the breast radiologist can often catch abnormalities and problems sooner and with greater accuracy. Remember, an earlier diagnosis can lead to earlier treatment, which can result in better health outcomes for the patient.
So the next time you have a mammogram, find out who will be reading it. It’s a question that needs to be asked more often.