National Mammogram Capacity Adequate
The mammography capacity nationwide is adequate, but some area shortages, in both the number of facilities and medical personnel, might make it difficult for some women to undergo the procedure, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday, CQ HealthBeat reports (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 8/16).
For the report, GAO reviewed FDA data on mammography facility closures and evaluated the reasons for the closures, analyzed FDA and National Center for Health Statistics data on differences in the nation's mammography capacity and use of such services and interviewed state and local officials about how a decrease in the number of mammography machines affects women (GAO, "Mammography: Current Nationwide Capacity Is Adequate, but Access Problems May Exist in Certain Locations," 7/25).
FDA data show that from 2001 to 2004 about 72% of counties had mammography machines but that the number of machines in certain counties decreased over the same time period (CQ HealthBeat, 8/16). The report says that from 2001 to 2004, 538 mammography facilities, or 6% of centers, closed, which might force women to travel long distances or experience long wait times to undergo the procedure (Los Angeles Times, 8/17).
"Lengthy travel distances may especially pose an access barrier for medically underserved women," a situation that is "of concern because uninsured and poor women have lower-than-average screening mammography rates," according to the report (GAO, "Mammography: Current Nationwide Capacity Is Adequate, but Access Problems May Exist in Certain Locations," 7/25). In addition, the number of technicians who perform mammographies and radiologists who evaluate them might not be able to serve the growing number of women ages 40 and older, according to the report.
Although there are no access problems currently, closures of facilities and decreasing numbers of radiologists and technicians "could result in access problems in the future," the report says (CQ HealthBeat, 8/16).