Osteoporosis assessment – An added incentive to attend mammography screening

Adequate attendance rates are important for the effectiveness of mammography screening programs. Throughout Europe, many screening centers struggle to increase participation rates. Clinical use of the Sectra OneScreen osteoporosis screening service indicates that combining mammography with osteoporosis screening may increase mammography attendance. Sectra OneScreen is a simple first step in identifying patients in the risk group for osteoporosis. The service is based on a single, standard X-ray image of the hand taken after the four breast images, adding only 30 seconds to the examination time.

“We even have women who ask to have their mammography examination rescheduled to days when osteoporosis screening is included,” says Annika Boström, Radiology Nurse Unilabs/Tumba Mammography, Sweden.

In this article Elin Kindberg, Senior Medical Advisor at Sectra, shares her thoughts on the benefits of combining mammography and osteoporosis screening based on her experience and interviews with mammography clinics throughout Europe.

Early detection is crucial

Thanks to mammography screening, many breast cancers are found long before they can be felt, when they are most curable. The same should be true for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is one of the most painful diseases in the world. Initially, it is a silent disease and those affected seldom realize they have it until their first fracture. Early recognition of osteoporosis is vital as it enables preventive treatment, which, in turn, can lower the risk of fractures substantially and slow down the progress of the disease.

Michael Risch, Radiology Manager at Radiologicum München, Germany confirms this: “The earlier a patient is aware of the risks, the greater the possibility of avoiding bone fractures caused by osteoporosis. Most of our patients are keen to take advantage of this combined form of preventive examination.”

Post menopausal women are at risk

Osteoporosis primarily affects women, particularly after menopause, when every third woman is at risk of having a fragility fracture, typically of the wrist, hip or spine. These women are typically already included in a mammography screening program, which increases the value of combining the two examinations.

“In countries with mammography screening, there’s already an administrative system in place for informing and scheduling women in the identified risk group. Adding information about osteoporosis to that letter, would be both efficient and logical,” says Elin Kindberg, Senior medical advisor.

An efficient combination

Since the Sectra OneScreen service is based on a standard X-ray image of the hand, the examination can be performed on the same piece of equipment as the breast images taken during a regular mammography examination. There’s no need for additional investment, no need for additional staff, and no need for the women attending to schedule an additional appointment or move to a different modality or room.

“Adding the extra examination has not really changed our workflow. It only adds about 10-20 seconds of extra time to the examination, and we still examine the same number of women per day as before,” says Annika Boström, Radiology Nurse Unilabs/Tumba Mammography, Sweden.

Also, including an osteoporosis assessment will increase the women’s value of attending mammography examinations. In a single appointment, she can now get both a breast cancer and osteoporosis assessment.

“The response I have seen from women being offered an osteoporosis examination in combination with regular mammography, makes me convinced that introducing OneScreen will have a positive effect on the participation rate for mammography,” says Elin Kindberg, Senior medical advisor.

Allyson Budino, Holly House Hospital UK, confirms the women’s response: “The women say that they are really happy with the opportunity to have this combined screening; they really think it is an excellent service.”

A need to educate

Despite the challenge of maintaining high attendance rates, mammography is in many countries a natural part of women’s safety net. However, that is not the case with osteoporosis assessments. Women are rather unaware of the disease and the possibilities of slowing down the disease through preventive treatment and life style changes.

“We often see that women actually don’t know how common osteoporosis is and the extreme suffering involved. As a mammography provider, we have a great opportunity to both educate women about osteoporosis and identify women at risk,” says Allyson Budino, Imaging Services Manager at Holly House Hospital, UK.

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Elin Kindberg is our expert on rheumatology solutions. Ask her about Sectra OneScreen, how to combine mammography and osteoporosis screening.

Sectra OneScreen is a service based on the FDA approved and CE marked product Sectra Osteoporosis Package

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