Tahira Ahmed, MD, RadNet Breast Imager, and Member of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Patient- and Family-Centered Care Outreach Committee, contributed this piece.
Breast imaging is one of the most patient-centered radiology specialties. On a daily basis, we experience significant face-to-face interactions with patients which can include the delivery of bad news and calming fears of the big unknown. I find that getting out of my chair to relay messages to patients directly, whether good or bad, is the best way to minimize patient anxiety. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and try to knock out the list, but we must remind ourselves to make the personal connection to deliver thoughtful patient- and family- centered care.
At my practice, a history sheet completed by the patient or family member is central to all screening reads. One of the most important fields on that sheet is family history of breast cancer and age of diagnosis. In addition, I often reference ACR Appropriateness Criteria® and ACR guidelines for screening mammography when questions arise from the community or from the technologists/staff about when and how often to perform certain breast imaging exams.
Recently, an outpatient ultrasound company offering only whole breast screening ultrasound to radiation-averse women moved into town. Suddenly we were flooded with anxious patients with findings on their screening ultrasound who were desperate for additional imaging; some even asking for biopsies and insisting on avoiding the radiation of mammography. Having these two ACR resources readily available made it easy to include relevant supplemental screening recommendations in the report, empowering patients and their physicians to develop an informed, collaborative plan of action for care.
As we prepare for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I hope you’ll join me in embracing patient- and family-centered care in your community. The ACR offers several wonderful resources to aid in improving the patient experience on the Patient- and Family-Centered Care Resources Hub, including toolkits to enhance patient-engagement skills, the latest literature and media, and patient-friendly information on imaging tests.