Mammography Quality Standards Act:

X-ray Quality Improved, Access Unaffected, but Impact on Health Outcomes Unknown

T-HEHS-98-164: Published: May 8, 1998. Publicly Released: May 8, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the findings of its work over the last several years examining the impact of the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA), focusing on: (1) the quality of mammography services; (2) early detection of breast cancer; and (3) women's access to mammography services.

GAO noted that: (1) it found that the overall impact of MQSA on mammography services has been positive, in that it has increased mammography facilities' adherence to accepted quality assurance standards and improved the quality of X-ray images; (2) the impact on early detection of breast cancer is less clear; (3) improving the quality of mammography images should lead to more accurate interpretation by physicians and, therefore, to improved early detection of breast cancer; (4) however, neither data nor research methodologies are now in place to clearly establish these links; (5) progress is being made to remedy these problems so that improvements in cancer outcomes can be measured; and (6) regarding concerns that the additional burden of MQSA quality assurance standards could result in facilities deciding to close rather than to upgrade, GAO found no indication that MQSA has caused access problems.

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