Abnormal mammograms are common, and the risk of false positives is high. We surveyed women in order to understand the factors influencing the efficiency of the evaluation of an abnormal mammogram.
Women aged 40–80 years, identified from lists with Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BIRADS) classifications of 0, 3, 4, or 5, were surveyed. Telephone surveys asked about the process of evaluation, and medical records were reviewed for tests and timing of evaluation.
In this study, 970 women were surveyed, and 951 had chart reviews. Overall, 36% were college graduates, 68% were members of a group model health plan, 18% were Latinas, 25% were African Americans, 15% were Asian, and 43% were white. Of the 352 women who underwent biopsies, 151 were diagnosed with cancer (93 invasive). Median time to diagnosis was 183 days for BIRADS 3 compared to 29 days for BIRADS 4/5 and 27 days for BIRADS 0. At 60 days, 84% of BIRADS 4/5 women had a diagnosis. Being African American (hazard ratio [HR] 0.69, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.49-0.97, p=0.03), income < $10,000 (HR 0.55, 95% CI 0.31-0.98, p<0.04), perceived discrimination (HR 0.22, 95% CI 0.09-0.52, p<0.001), not fully understanding the results of the index mammogram (HR 0.49, 95% CI 0.32-0.75, p=0.001), and being notified by letter (HR 0.66, 95% CI 0.48-0.90, p=0.01) or telephone (HR 0.62, 95% CI 0.42-0.92, p=0.02) rather than in person were all associated with significant delays in diagnosis.
Evaluation of BIRADS 0, 4, or 5 abnormal mammograms was completed in most women within the recommended 60 days. Even within effective systems, correctible communication factors may adversely affect time to diagnosis.