Breast Cancer on the Run in October: (Day 15) MQSA


Acronyms rule. In 1994 Congress passed the MQSA. This is a law that requires mammography facilities to be accredited by an FDA approved body. Currently the only nationally approved body is the ACR.

All this developed because of a nationwide survey called NEXT, a GAO study, and an NBC news report. The most tangible results for patients is receiving a letter saying their mammogram was a BIRADS 3.

56333Tantalizing, isn’t it? Bureaucracies, federal organizations, and corporations are probably frustrated that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet to create their acronym stews.

The MQSA is the Mammography Quality Standards Act. As mammography became more widespread in the 1980s serious quality issues were uncovered and then publicized. Congress acted, passed, and then later refined this law regulating the practice of mammography.

The end result was the establishment of uniform standards for mammography facilities, improvement in the overall quality of the mammograms performed, adoption of a common language for communicating results to patients, and the implementation of a series of regulations protecting patient interaction with the facility and its doctors.

As a result, all facilities are inspected yearly for compliance and issued certificates either by the ACR (American College of Radiology) or the FDA (Federal Drug Agency).

It is hard to argue with the results of this law and its impact for patients and for doctors. Mammography continues to be central to our efforts to control breast cancer. The MQSA has to be included in any list of important developments in this regard.

As usual, its impact goes beyond quality issues. The inspection can be expensive affairs for the facility and there is no reimbursement mechanism in place for this.

Doctors as a whole are uneasy about Congress, lawyers, and bureaucrats  intruding in a process with patients that they feel they are in the best position to define and determine. On the heels of the MQSA, other laws regulating the ordering of tests for breast cancer have passed. Regulating bureaucracies have passed down edicts that further complicated matters for doctors.

Radiologist have wondered why this radiological test and not others is so rigorously regulated

In the end, patients come first. The MQSA is for them. Let’s just hope it is a  gift that keeps on giving….


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