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Workforce Shortages in Mammography Could Threaten Early Detection Rates for Breast Cancer

February 2, 2009

At the current rate of production for new mammography professionals, there will be drastic reductions in the number of mammography professionals per woman age 40 years and older over the next 15-20 years, according to a study performed at the Center for Health and Workforce Studies at the Albany School of Public Health in Rensselaer, NY.

The study forecasted that in the year 2010 there will be approximately 20.6 radiologists per 100,000 women age 40 years and older and in 2025 only 17.5 radiologists per 100,000 women age 40 years and older. That compares to 20.6 radiologists per 100,000 women in 2005. The study also forecasted that in 2010 it is estimated that there will be 32.4 technologists per 100,000 women 40 years and older and in 2025 only 22.4 technologists per 100,000 women 40 and over. That compares to 37.1 technologists per 100,000 women in 2005. The forecasting model used during the study is based on data provided by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT).

“The critical issue is maintaining a sufficient workforce to meet the growing needs of the breast imaging field. The data clearly show that the number of women 40 years and older is going to grow dramatically over the next 20 years,” said Margaret Langelier and Paul Wing, lead authors of the study. “It is a question of access to care. Part of the problem with mammography, unlike other care than can be provided through telecommunication, it requires hands on participation of workers,” said Langelier and Wing.

“Over the past 30 years, we have done an excellent job of creating public awareness of the importance of mammography and the years of survivorship have increased substantially. What we need to do is focus on being able to sustain what we have built, but without a sufficient number of radiologists and radiologic techs who specialize in breast imaging, breast cancer mortality rates could increase,” said Langelier and Wing.

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