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Letter to the Editor

We applaud Eileen Anderson’s efforts to track down the price of a screening mammogram at various mammography centers around town (“The Adventures of a Health Care Consumer

,” February 12) – no easy task! Although she found that our center had the lowest price (this is true even after adding in our price for computer-aided detection), we do not advocate shopping for healthcare primarily by price.

 

 

Far more important than price is quality. You want experienced technologists who know how to get the highest quality mammograms, since blurriness and poor positioning lower the chances of spotting cancers. You want experienced radiologists who can detect small cancers – the ones that are the easiest to cure. We know information on quality is tougher to get than pricing data. We suggest asking your doctors, friends, and relatives for recommendations. You can learn about radiologists’ training and experience through the American Board of Medical Specialties

and the hospitals’ or imaging centers’ web sites.

 

 

 

Other important factors are service, convenience, and comfort. Can you schedule your mammogram when you need it? If you have a breast lump, how quickly can you be seen? When do you get your results? If additional testing or biopsy is needed, can they be done the same day? How comfortable do you feel with the staff and surroundings?

 

 

 

As an informed consumer, be ready to question what you’re told. Ms. Anderson was led to believe that digital mammograms are best at cancer detection. In most cases, there’s no difference in accuracy between digital and non-digital mammography. For women with dense breast tissue, it has been our experience that supplementing mammography with ultrasound actually provides a greater benefit than getting a digital mammogram. And be aware that any potential benefits of digital mammograms can be wiped out if taken by inexperienced technologists or interpreted by inexperienced radiologists. Once again, quality matters.

 

 

Finally, know your options. If you are uninsured, you need not “pay the highest price.” The Pittsburgh Race for the Cure, run every Mother’s Day, helps to fund the American Cancer Society’s Mammography Voucher Program

. This program provides free mammograms and other testing for those least able to pay. All women over the age of 40 should have a screening mammogram once a year. It’s one of the most important healthcare decisions you can make.

 

 

Thomas S. Chang, MD

 

Marcela Böhm-Vélez, MD, FACR

 

Michelle R. Straka, MD

 

Barbara H. Ward, MD

 

Weinstein Imaging Associates

 

Pittsburgh, PA


     
 
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