Return to Care: Encouraging Breast Health Year-Round

Sarah M. Friedewald, MD, FACR, Vice Chair of Clinical Operations and Women’s Imaging and Associate Professor for the Department of Radiology at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, contributed this post.

Much of healthcare was disrupted during the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, not the least of which was breast imaging. According to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, mammography was down by 59% at the beginning of the pandemic and reached a 94% decline at one point in the summer. Facility decisions regarding which patients to image were supported by the joint statement published on March 26, 2020 by the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) and the American Society of Breast Surgeons recommending immediate cessation of all screening examinations, to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Triaging patients to be seen immediately depended on many factors, largely revolving around diagnosing and treating patients that were highly suspicious or had already been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Resumption of routine breast imaging did not occur until late summer, when the numbers of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 reached manageable levels. Guidance for re-entry published by the COVID-19 Pandemic Breast Cancer Consortiumhelped facilities safely bring patients back into the clinic. However, the challenge of finding spots for these displaced patients was felt by many facilities across the country. At many sites, when screening resumed, schedules were at reduced capacity to accommodate in-between patient room cleaning and to reduce overcrowding. Adding these additional postponed slots on an already contracted schedule lead to many patients skipping their yearly mammogram altogether.

There will likely be a drop in scheduled appointments from March to May of this year, as patients were not screened at this time last year. This is a prime opportunity to capture the patients who missed their 2020 screening due to COVID-19. Or, alternatively, reaching out to patients that have never had a mammogram and encouraging them to schedule during this spring could be a chance for facilities to maximize their care to patients. Anecdotally, we have already seen unfortunate cases where the delay in screening resulted in delays in breast cancer diagnoses. Data will likely confirm this fact as time progresses and long term outcomes are collected.

It has been demonstrated that it is safe for patients to have mammograms and technologists to perform mammograms with the proper personal protective equipment and sound cleaning techniques. As we approach spring, I urge you to encourage those who are behind on their screening and/or those who are fearful of coming into the breast center to #ReturnToCare and seek their annual mammography screenings. Our outreach is critical to decrease the negative impact of COVID-19 on our patients.

  • Access the ACR Return to Mammography Care toolkit, a series of free, customizable and downloadable resources to help you and your referring providers reconnect with women ages 40 and older to schedule yearly mammograms postponed by COVID-19.

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Going Virtual with Radiology Micro-Courses

Jeffrey Kanne, MD, FACR, and Dushyant Sahani, MD, FACR, members of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Education Center Advisory Committee, contributed this post.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of adoption of virtual technology in the education, collaboration, research and patient care environments. The ACR Education Center has also evolved to address the needs of participants and faculty seeking further education and training. We’re pleased to offer the ACR Education Center Virtual Micro-Courses.

Jeffrey Kanne, MD, FACR

The ACR Education Center normally brings practicing radiologists together with world-class faculty for three days of in-person courses for an intensive, case-based review of a radiology subspecialty area. With small student-to-faculty ratios, large DICOM cases libraries and personal access to faculty expertise, students can gain new interpretative skills to take back to their practices. In-person courses, however, are cancelled through March 31, 2021 out of concern for health and safety for course participants, faculty and staff.

Dushyant Sahani, MD, FACR

Building on the innovation of the ACR Education Center, we’ve crafted the new Virtual Micro-Course offerings to deliver Education Center-quality learning from wherever one chooses during the pandemic. These offerings address the need for supporting virtual interaction and sustained learning — all at a lower cost.

The courses focus on a single subspecialty topic, such as liver imaging, idiopathic interstitial pneumonias or temporal bone. Attendees can access recorded lectures and full DICOM case libraries for seven days before the highlight of the course, a virtual two-hour case review with members of our world-class faculty. These case reviews provide learners with understanding of the nuances of and faculty approaches to cases in real-time, skills that cannot be easily taught from textbooks, didactic lectures and other static learning materials. Following live sessions, attendees can review the study materials for an additional 48 hours. Up to 7.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ and 4.0 SAM credits can be earned.

We hope that attendees will begin using their new skills after completing the courses and also recognize the educational value of these new offerings. The ACR Education Center Virtual Micro-Courses are an excellent opportunity for new students to see the effectiveness of faculty-mentored, case-based learning, and for returning previous in-person students to refresh and refine their skills.

  • Learn more about our Virtual Micro-Courses, and find out which offerings might be the best fit for you.

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Looking to the Future: Creating a Diverse Radiology Community

Michele H. Johnson, MD, FACR, FASER, Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging and Neurosurgery; Director of Interventional Neuroradiology at Yale University School of Medicine, Program Chair for the ACR PIER Program, contributed this post.

As we continue to embark in the New Year with strong feelings of hope and excitement for the future, we stand strong in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even with the ongoing masking, social distancing and vaccine distribution, the healthcare community as a whole faces an array of challenges including social justice, healthcare inequities and economic stresses. 

The American College of Radiology® (ACR®) works to improve healthcare inequities by proudly acknowledging that medical students represent the future of medicine, and that we must strive to mirror the populations we serve by attracting students from diverse backgrounds into careers in the radiological sciences including diagnostic and interventional radiology, radiation oncology and medical physics.

As such, the ACR prioritizes medical student outreach and education. The ACR Medical Student Hub is a free resource tailored just for medical students, created by the ACR Medical Education & Student Outreach team as well as the Medical Student Subcommittee. Our hub supports medical students in getting started in the field of radiology, connecting with peers and mentors, keeping informed on the latest educational resources and accessing various scholarship and internship opportunities.

A signature event of the committee is the 2021 Medical Student Symposium, to be held this Sat., Jan. 23, 2021. The virtual event, Co-Chaired by Tonuka Chatterjee, BSc, and Ryan Morrison, BS, is a great opportunity for medical students to discover the evolving field of radiology, radiation oncology and subspecialties.

Our flagship internship opportunity that particularly engages medical students from diverse backgrounds is the Pipeline Initiative for the Enrichment of Radiology (PIER) Internship. The initiative began through the Commission for Women and Diversity with the goal of providing underrepresented minorities (URMs) and women an opportunity to explore the radiology specialties and engage in research. This program was converted from an in-person internship to a virtual program in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tonuka Chaterjee, BSc, was a participant in this program and has continued her activity in the ACR. For 2021, we are growing our virtual PIER program to include more interns and faculty in order to expand our medical student outreach efforts.

If you’re a first-year medical student interested in the field of radiology, I urge you to check out the many free ACR resources and take advantage of opportunities to further explore the specialty in both the Medical Student Virtual Symposium and the PIER Internship.

  • Registration is still open for the 2021 Medical Student Symposium, held virtually Saturday, Jan. 23 from noon to 5pm ET.
  • The PIER application deadline is Friday, Jan. 29. Find out if you qualify and submit an application today.

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