Having earlier breast images for comparison greatly improve breast cancer diagnosis and patient outcomes, but many women in the U.S. either don’t know they have a legal right to previous scans or have trouble getting them. Mammosphere, a patient advocate platform, wants to change that.
Called “Where’s My Mammogram?,” the public service campaign aims to empower women to become active participants in their breast health, and to enhance the benefits of regular breast cancer screening for women over 40. The effort will run through October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In the United States, physicians are obligated, upon request, to give patients copies of their mammograms in the formats requested, and at a reasonable expense, within 30 days.
“Many women aren’t aware of the importance of having their past mammograms available for comparison at the time of screening,” Kathryn Pearson Peyton, a breast-imaging radiologist and Mammosphere founder, said in a press release. “And navigating the health care system to get those prior medical records can be daunting. Where’s My Mammogram? aims to make it easier.”
Allowing physicians to compare earlier and current breast images can reduce “false positives” — cases where a cancer is suspected but does not actually exist — by up to 60 percent, Mammosphere said. In addition, 30 percent of actual cancers are caught earlier, and diagnoses of those that have spread to lymph nodes fall by 12 percent.
Are You Dense, an organization dedicated to education regarding the risks and screening challenges of dense breast tissue and its impact on cancer, supports the campaign.
“We join in supporting Mammosphere’s efforts to ensure that doctors and their patients have readily available access to complete patient prior imaging, enabling informed breast health decisions without delay,” said Nancy M. Cappello, founder of Are You Dense.
Under the landmark Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, people across the U.S. are guaranteed access to their health records.
“Mammosphere believes that women must be able to control their health records so they can share their medical records with their care team, or anyone else they choose,” said Matthew A. Michela, president and chief executive of Life Image, Mammosphere’s parent company.
Still, he said, many women report difficulties in getting their records from doctors. “This is not a technology problem. The technology exists. Therefore, this educational campaign is vital to increasing awareness among clinicians, patients and patient advocacy groups.”
As part of its campaign, Mammosphere is encouraging supporters to retweet its posts, including, “Where’s My Mammogram? Knowing where yours is can save your life. Learn more at https://bit.ly/2pKzoWU,” using the hashtag #WheresMyMammogram.
When requesting information from doctors, Mammosphere suggests, patients should check the institution’s website for a medical records request form, and learn whether they have access to a secure portal that would enable electronic transmission.
Tools available here include an example of how to request breast images in writing, a script for requesting images by phone, and facts concerning the importance of having prior images available during regular screenings.
Patient complaints concerning non-compliance may be filed with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).