New York Times Looks at Failings of Federal Mammography Standards
Although the federal government 10 years ago issued standards to address a "mammography industry awash in scandal" and make reading mammography films easier, the standards have "largely failed to remedy what many experts say is the biggest problem of all: the skill of the doctors who interpret those X-ray films," the New York Times reports in the first part of a two-part series, called "Blurred Vision." A number of studies have found that radiologists "miss far more tumors than previously assumed," and many doctors "simply lack the ability to discern the elusive signs of breast cancer" in mammograms, "widely regarded as the hardest task" for radiologists, the Times reports. The federal government requires little specialized training for radiologists and "holds the doctors to only minimum standards," the Times reports. Radiologists must read at least 2,500 mammograms each year to "stay sharp," but the government only mandates 480, a number that many experts consider "so low as to be virtually meaningless." In addition, the government does not monitor the performance of radiologists, and the Times reports that "even those who miss far more than their fair share of cancers tend to remain unidentified and beyond regulatory reach" (Moss, New York Times, 6/27). The second part of the series runs tomorrow. In addition, PBS' "Now with Bill Moyers" will air a segment on the series 9 p.m. ET Friday.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.