Background: Breast cancer is frequently diagnosed after an abnormal mammography result. Language barriers can complicate communication of those results.
Objectives: We evaluated the association of non-English language with delay in follow-up.
Methods: Retrospective cohort study of women at 3 mammography facilities participating in the San Francisco Mammography Registry with an abnormal mammogram result from 1997 to 2008. We measured median time from report of abnormal result to first follow-up test.
Results: Of 13,014 women with 16,109 abnormal mammograms, 4027 (31%) had a non-English patient language. Clinical facilities differed in proportion of non-English speakers and in time to first follow-up test: facility A (38%; 25 d), facility B (18%; 14 d), and facility C (51%; 41 d). Most mammography examinations (67%) had breast imaging and reporting data system 0 (incomplete) assessment, requiring radiographic follow-up. At 30 days of follow-up, 67% of all English speakers with incomplete assessments had a follow-up examination compared with 50% of all non-English speakers (P<0.0001). The facility with the least delay and the lowest proportion of non-English speakers, had the biggest difference by language; compared with English speakers and adjusting for education, non-English speakers had twice the odds ratio of >30-day delay in follow-up (odds ratio=2.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-3.9).
Conclusions: There are considerable differences among facilities in delays in diagnostic follow-up of abnormal mammography results. More attention must be paid to understanding mammography facility factors, such as wait time to schedule diagnostic mammography and radiology workload, to improve rates of timely follow-up, particularly for those facilities disproportionately serving vulnerable non-English speaking patients.