Three questions to ask before your mammogram

Women can reduce their chances of needing a costly and time-consuming second opinion by asking three simple questions before being tested for breast cancer.

Leonel Vasquez portrait

Based on recent research

Leonel Vasquez, MD, FACR, director of the breast division of the University of Iowa Department of Radiology, says several recent research studies indicate many women who seek a second opinion on their breast cancer imaging exams learn that they need to change their care plan.

“One study found that about half of the women who sought a second opinion ended up having their original care plans changed significantly,” Vasquez says. “We definitely see the same trends here at the University of Iowa.”

Vasquez says women should look for the best-qualified facility—one that offers all types of breast imaging and comprehensive breast care. He suggests asking the following questions.

Has the provider been designated as a Breast Cancer Imaging Center of Excellence, or BICOE?

Vasquez says: “A BICOE-designated center has met standards set by the American College of Radiology for mammography, breast ultrasound, stereotactic biopsies, ultrasound core biopsies, and breast MRI.”

The University of Iowa has earned BICOE designation. The ACR has a search tool on its website for people looking for accredited providers near them.

Does the provider have radiologists on staff who have fellowship training in breast imaging?

Vasquez says: “A fellowship-trained breast imaging radiologist concentrates only on breast imaging. That fellowship training gives the radiologist a better fundamental knowledge of the pathology of breast cancer.”

Find out whether a provider has a fellowship-trained breast imaging radiologist on staff. Just call the provider or check the provider’s website.

Does the provider treat breast cancer patients with a multidisciplinary, or multi-physician, approach?

Vasquez says: “Breast cancer requires expertise from many specialists. At the University of Iowa, every breast cancer patient is treated by a team of doctors who meet every Friday to discuss the patient’s case. We go over the imaging, the chemo, the surgery, the pathology—all the specialists are there, including plastic surgery.”

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center uses the multidisciplinary team approach to treat all types of cancer.

Keep these questions with you

Download our helpful guide to remember these three questions ahead of your next mammogram.

Download The Guide

Accurate results can mean better news

Back to the studies involving second opinions, Vasquez emphasizes that not all the women in those studies got bad news from the second opinion. Some learned that the first reading of their results recommended procedures that weren’t necessary.

“A lot of times the patient has been told that she needs a biopsy, but I look at her results and I can see that it’s benign,” Vasquez says. “It’s hard for her to accept because she’s been so worried about it. Sometimes giving the patient good news can be a real challenge, but it saves them from extra costs and maybe even from having more tests.”

Last reviewed: 
October 2018

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