All quiet on the mammo front

Screening mammography, the mainstay of women’s imaging, is a trigger point. For decades, we’ve watched an escalating debate about the exam. As I browsed the latest clinical research, however, the latest highlights originated in other, unexpected corners.

A study published online June 10 in Cancer suggested women may postpone colonoscopy screening. This type of stratified, gender-specific algorithm edges us closer to personalized medicine. I suspect many women will welcome the findings.

But how will the implications be shared with women? As with many women’s concerns, communication is key. In fact, it’s fairly safe to propose that patient communication is a critical component of women’s healthcare. A study published in the June issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology detailed the impact of radiologists’ communication with women during breast biopsy.

On a scale of 20 to 80 points, average prebiopsy anxiety was 44.5, reported Lauren S. Miller, MD, Riverside Radiology and Interventional Associates, Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues. Better communication with the radiologist who recommended the procedure was significantly associated with lower anxiety scores (r= -0.22). Post-biopsy anxiety scores fell to an average of 37.2, and the association between communication and reduced anxiety persisted following the procedure.

The benefits of active patient communication extend beyond reduced anxiety. Cardinal Health, a Dublin, Ohio-based company established an oncology pathways program that provides guidelines to encourage cost-effective treatments and eliminate unnecessary interventions.

An analysis of 2,424 breast, colon and lung cancer patients—the cancers covered by the program—who initiated chemotherapy between April 1, 2007, and April 5, 2010, indicated a savings of 15 percent compared with non-pathways treatment, and also resulted in a 7 percent reduction in the probability of hospital admission. Cardinal Health touts $8 million in savings from the program.

I welcome the current quiet in the mammo debate. Women’s health transcends breast imaging; the current lull provides an opportunity to reflect on other important findings.

What has your practice learned during recent quiet weeks? Please let us know.

Lisa Fratt, editor