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Study: Patient Profile Helps Radiologists Read Mammograms

June 27, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Medical Ethics, Practice Management
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Knowing patients’ risk profiles can make radiologists’ readings of screening mammograms more accurate—depending on whether the profile information is given the proper weight and delivered at the proper time.

That’s the conclusion of research presented at a conference last week by Mehmet U. S. Ayvaci, PhD, assistant professor of information systems and operations management at the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

A news release described the study results this way:

The researchers found that providing radiologists with the patient’s risk profile information for breast cancer at the most advantageous time when examining the mammogram, together with statistical weighting based on profile risk, reduces false negatives by 3.7%.

The news release came from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Dr. Ayvaci presented the paper at the INFORMS-sponsored Advances in Decision Analysis conference at Georgetown University in Washington.

Dr. Ayvaci and his colleagues determined that correctly provided profile information also reduced false positives by 3.23 percent. But exactly how the profile information—family history, reproductive history, age, ethnicity, etc.—is presented can be tricky. The researchers examined the mammogram-reading performance of three radiologist groups. One received no risk profile information. One received the risk profile after seeing the mammogram (an “unbiased” reading). One received the risk profile before examining the mammogram (a “biased” or “influenced” reading). The researchers noted that bias, in this case, was not necessarily a negative; bias might help the accuracy of the readings.

Dr. Ayvaci views his research as a step toward creating a protocol for using risk profile information rather than the final word on when and how the information should be used. “We find that using the risk profile information at the right time and assigning it an appropriate weight can spare women of unnecessary procedures and can help us with better cancer detection,” he told Diagnostic Imaging. “If supported by future research, guidelines can incorporate the optimal use of risk profile information in managing the breast disease.”

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The final U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for abdominal aortic aneurysm screening are, well, unsurprising. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 24 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Chicago International Breast Course and The Society for the Advancement of Women’s Imaging

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