NYC Mammography Report Shows Improvements, Challenges

October 26, 2009 Updated: October 26, 2009

NEW YORK—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn released Sunday a citywide report regarding mammogram wait times. Quinn was joined by Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who has proposed the Mammogram and MRI Availability Act.

The study, “Access to Mammography in New York City: Facility Wait Times, Locations, and Proximity to Transportation,” shows that wait times have improved from when investigations were done in 2002 and 2003.

“We found that women in New York City were having to wait months—many months—before they could schedule for a mammogram,” Quinn said. “Years later, now, we wanted to revisit this issue. We wanted to see if the work we had done and were doing was making the problem better. Although things aren’t perfect, we can report progress.”

The average wait time is 18 days, and 59 percent of the mammogram-equipped facilities are able to schedule appointments within a week. Also, facilities with longer wait times are now referring women to other nearby facilities with shorter wait times.

The report shows that in the last year, 77.8 percent of insured women over 40 had gotten mammogram screenings, but only 62.1 percent of uninsured women had gotten screenings. City Council Speaker Quinn said it was important that women know about clinics and facilities with free mammogram screenings and mammogram vans, such as the Health and Hospitals Corporation in New York.

Congressman Nadler’s legislation, if passed, would extend coverage for MRI along with mammograms for women at risk; as of now, insurance usually only covers a screening mammogram. The bill also lists funding for digital mammogram machinery as a priority.

“When it comes to breast cancer, it is very clear that prevention is often the difference between life and death,” Rep. Nadler said. “One’s access to preventive care should never depend on income or geography, and screening mammography and MRI should be available to everyone who is at risk. As we wait to find a cure for breast cancer, ensuring coverage for mammograms and MRI could mean tremendous benefit for thousands of women.”

Speaker Quinn says that though there has been progress, there are still challenges. Out of all the mammogram facilities in New York City, 14 of them had what she called unacceptable wait times of one to two months.

It was found that some of the facilities were not even aware of the problems they were having. Some facilities have agreed to work on making changes such as referring patients to clinics with shorter wait times. Other setbacks include funding for machinery and staff.

“If we don’t pass the bill, we would easily see a backslide in progress,” Speaker Quinn said. “With wait times of months and months and months.”