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Who is Reading Your Mammogram?

Private: Catherine S. Giess, MD
Contributor Catherine S. Giess, MD

Approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This post discusses the importance of specialized training in reading mammograms.

When choosing a location for your mammogram, it is important to look for a center that performs a high volume of mammograms. Preferably, the radiologists in the center should be dedicated to breast imaging. Breast imaging specialists devote their time exclusively to breast imaging, including mammography, breast MRI, and breast ultrasound.

The detection of very subtle changes in early breast cancer can be very challenging. Studies have shown that radiologists specializing in breast imaging outperform non-specialist radiologists in detecting breast cancer. Furthermore, the more mammograms and other breast images that radiologists read, the better they become at identifying these subtle changes, with higher accuracy.

“There is a certain art to the science of reading mammograms,” explains Dr. Catherine Giess, Chief of the Division of Breast Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Mammography involves comparing many different views of the breast, at various points in time. It takes skill to distinguish normal variations in breast tissue from small tissue changes indicating a problem.”

Dr. Giess also encourages women to contact their radiologists when they have specific questions, particularly when it comes to breast imaging type and risk factors.

“A woman should feel comfortable requesting to speak with her radiologist about a screening result or a concern,” said Dr. Giess.

The Division of Breast Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital offers mammography and other breast imaging at multiple locations, including the Lee Bell Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain, Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center in Foxborough, and the Brigham and Women’s Health Care Center in Chestnut Hill.

Private: Catherine S. Giess, MD
Catherine S. Giess, MD

Catherine S. Giess, MD, is Chief of the Division of Breast Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.

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