Editor's note: A correction has been made to this article.
WINCHESTER — Winchester Medical Center has temporarily stopped performing mammograms due to concerns about the quality of its scans.
Mark H. Merrill, president and chief executive officer of the hospital’s corporate parent, Valley Health System, said on Monday evening that arrangements have been made for women who previously scheduled a mammography at Winchester Medical Center’s Diagnostic Center, as well as those who have questions about the accuracy of mammograms that were performed over the past two years.
Problems with the mammograms, which are used as a means of detecting breast cancer and other diseases of the breast, came to light following a routine annual inspection by the American College of Radiology (ACR), which works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure mammography equipment, staff and services meet federal accreditation standards.
Merrill said the ACR noted issues with some of the mammography images taken over the past two years in Winchester Medical Center’s Diagnostic Center at 300 Campus Blvd. While the equipment functioned properly, inspectors determined that staff had not accurately positioned or compressed some women’s breasts, resulting in scans that were not sufficiently sharp.
“We suspended our mammography services at the Diagnostic Center [on Aug. 31] upon learning of the findings from the American College of Radiology,” said Christopher Nieman, the department chair of radiology and lead interpreting physician for mammography services at Winchester Medical Center. “They will remain on hold until we are confident the issues have been resolved.”
Merrill said all other services offered by the Diagnostic Center, including breast biopsies and surgical preparations, will continue without interruption.
Nieman said the hospital waited more than two weeks to go public with the mammography shutdown because it needed time to make alternate arrangements for patients and get more information from the ACR about how the problems can be corrected.
“It’s important to note that the ACR findings about the mammogram images do not necessarily mean that the results of any particular mammogram were inaccurate,” Merrill added. “But it does mean that patients may need to have their mammograms re-evaluated.”
Winchester Medical Center is working with the FDA to determine which mammograms had questionable images and will notify those patients as soon as possible, Merrill said. Meanwhile, women who are concerned about the results of mammograms within the past two years are encouraged to contact their primary care physician or call a specially designated toll-free number set up by Valley Health, 888-441-5294.
Women who previously scheduled screening mammograms at Winchester Medical Center are also encouraged to call 888-441-5294 to make a new appointment or arrange to be seen at one of Valley Health’s other five hospitals: Warren, Shenandoah and Page memorial hospitals in Virginia; Hampshire Memorial Hospital and War Memorial Hospital in West Virginia.
“We currently have availability for mammograms at all of the [five] Valley Health sites, so if a woman were to call today, we could get her scheduled this week,” Nieman said on Monday.
Additionally, screening mammograms can be performed at Progressive Radiology in Winchester, or the Radiology Imaging Associates clinics in Lansdowne and Sterling.
If it’s recommended that a second mammogram be done as a result of a questionable scan, Merrill said it will be performed at no cost.
Women with orders for diagnostic mammograms at Winchester Medical Center, or those who received a mammogram in the past two years and want to have another performed as a precaution, will get their procedures at another Valley Health hospital or one of the three radiology clinics.
“We hope that this does not motivate someone to not get their annual mammogram,” Merrill said. “We know that screening can catch breast cancer in its earliest phases.”
Nieman said Winchester Medical Center has already received approval from the ACR on a corrective action plan and started offering additional training to the Diagnostic Center’s mammography staff on Sunday.
“The focus of the training is how to position the breast to take the images,” he said. “Our hope is to have the additional training done by early next week so we can start the process of being re-accredited by the American College of Radiology.”
“We want to make sure we get it right so we can meet all of their standards, all of the time,” Merrill added. “We’re deeply apologetic for any inconvenience and concern this has raised.”
For more information on Valley Health and its member hospitals, visit valleyhealthlink.com.