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Survey reveals shortage of radiologists and certified mammography technologists at U.S. community mammography facilities

A growing number of women are over 40 years of age and eligible for mammography screening for breast cancer. However, nearly half of community-based mammography facilities in the United States do not have enough radiologists and certified mammography technologists to meet their screening needs, according to a survey supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10591).

A 2000-2001 survey of mammography facilities in three states addressed radiologist and certified technologist staffing levels, annual volume of screening and diagnostic mammography examinations, and length of appointment waiting times.

All 45 mammography facilities that responded to the survey provided screening mammography. Nearly half (44 percent) of these facilities reported radiologist staffing shortages. A significant proportion of not-for-profit facilities (60 percent) reported a shortage of radiologists when compared with for-profit facilities (28 percent).

Twenty percent of facilities reported having unfilled technologist positions, and nearly half (47 percent) reported some difficulty maintaining adequate qualified technologists. Waiting times for diagnostic mammography ranged from less than 1 week to 4 weeks, with 85 percent of procedures performed within a week. Yet, only 30 percent of facilities were able to schedule screening mammography within a week, and 47 percent had a waiting time of 2 or more weeks. Some had waiting times of 1 to 2 months. Other career options with higher incomes for women and the strict certification requirements for technologists may be disincentives for radiologic technologists to obtain certification in mammography, suggest the researchers.

See "Current realities of delivering mammography services in the community: Do challenges with staffing and scheduling exist?" by Carl D. Orsi, M.D., Shin-Ping Tu, M.D., M.P.H., Connie Nakano, M.P.H., and others, in the May 2005 Radiology 235, pp. 391-395.

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