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Newfoundland health authority reviewing about 3,000 mammograms for possible issues

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Central Newfoundland’s health authority said Wednesday it is reviewing about 3,000 mammograms from the past three years for possible issues after officials discovered that some images had been analyzed using incorrect screens.

Andree Robichaud, president and chief executive officer of Central Health, said the mammograms under review cover a period between Nov. 1, 2019, and Aug. 19, 2022. She said preliminary reviews of mammograms from 468 patients showed that three had potential discrepancies.

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“This is an unfortunate sequence of events,” Robichaud told reporters. “We’ll put in the processes to ensure that this doesn’t happen again and again, we apologize for this incident.”

National standards call for mammograms to be evaluated on screens with five-megapixel resolution, but officials with Central Health said they became aware last week that some had been viewed on three-megapixel screens. Those screens meet current guidelines for images such as CT scans, but not for mammograms, said Dr. Mark Spurrell, Central Health’s acting chief of staff.

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“I want to reassure everyone that five-megapixel viewing screens are now being used across the region for the review of mammography,” Spurrell told reporters. The health authority has launched an internal investigation into its mammography viewing practices, he added.

That review will also look at whether any of the errors occurred because staff were working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Robichaud said. “I think that we may have that as an issue, but that’s part of the review,” she said.

The three discrepancies detected so far fall within an expected margin of error, said Dr. Angela Pickles, clinical chief of medical imaging with the province’s Eastern Health authority. She said it’s impossible to tell if they arose because of the screens or because of differing interpretations of the mammograms.

“In my experience, it would be highly unlikely to be solely due to the monitors,” Pickles told reporters. “It’s likely to do with human interpretation or human error.”

Central Health has contracted an external radiologist to carry out the review of the approximately 3,000 mammograms, “out of an abundance of caution,” Robichaud said, adding that the review is expected to be complete in the latter half of September.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2022.

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