Forum: Process for breast scan review needs to be looked at

Posed photo of a patient going through breast screening on a mammogram machine.
Posed photo of a patient going through breast screening on a mammogram machine. ST PHOTO: HOW HWEE YOUNG

Last year, I went to a polyclinic for a regular mammogram and two weeks later received a letter asking me to make an appointment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for a follow-up assessment as there were abnormalities in the scan.

I was very anxious and called TTSH immediately. However, I was told there was a two-to three-week waiting period as they conduct assessments only twice a week and only in the mornings.

It was too long a period for me to wait, and I called my physician who told me to go back to the polyclinic to purchase the films. The films were printed out within half an hour at a reasonable cost of $25.

I then took the films to my physician who passed them on to a radiologist to review for a small fee. Within just 24 hours, the radiologist confirmed that the abnormalities were due to calcification and benign. You can imagine my relief.

According to BreastScreen Singapore, for every 1,000 women screened in Singapore, about 100 are called back for assessment. This means that each year, many women undergo this agonising wait before being assessed.

I would ask the polyclinics and TTSH to review their policies on the follow-up assessment in order to relieve this group of women of the stress and anxiety, either by reducing the waiting period or proactively offering the women the option of purchasing the films for review by another radiologist if they face a long wait.

The polyclinic also refused to give me a written report and I could only purchase the films.

Also, there should be several ways to contact patients as they have phone numbers, e-mail, and so on, rather than just sending standard letters. They should also send an SMS or e-mail to make sure the patient received the letter.

I wish to share my experience with women who face this similar situation and let them know there are other options they can take that will give them peace of mind.

Tan Weena

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2019, with the headline 'Process for breast scan review needs to be looked at'. Subscribe