COVID Causes Mammogram Delays, Concerns

COVID caused so many hardships: business failures, social isolation, interrupted educations.

But there are many other unintended consequences, much more collateral damage. Like women who postponed mammograms, then never rescheduled them.

Dr. Evan Wasserman sees that trend. The Norwalk radiologist and longtime Westporter is alarmed. Mammograms are literally a matter of life and death.

Radiology attracted Dr. Wasserman during his clinical rotations because it combined his loves for anatomy and pathology. Radiologists work with a range of specialists – pediatricians, neurosurgeons, OB/GYNs, ENTs and more – to figure out exactly what is wrong with a wide variety of patients.

Dr. Evan Wasserman

After 20 years, Dr. Wasserman is still excited by the field. Each day he helps diagnose everything from sports injuries to cancers.

Technology evolves; advances include digital and 3D mammography, and breast MRI. Breast cancer is one disease that has gone from a virtual death sentence, to one that can be managed and treated well.

But it must be detected early.

For much of his career, most women had yearly exams. Then the pandemic struck. Fears grew about close contact with people and machines. Many facilities stopped offering them.

Testing is back. But some women have not returned. They’ve missed a year or two, and — out of continued fear of COVID, a broken habit, or whatever — they no longer came for annual screening.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Dr. Wasserman says. “If breast cancer is found early, we can do a lot. If you wait 2 or 3 years …”

This winter Mary Himes — the wife of Congressman Jim Himes — announced she had stage 2A breast cancer. She had delayed her annual mammogram, due to COVID concerns.

But there’s another reason some patients have not returned: confusion over his group’s practice.

Alan Richman got Dr. Wasserman to Norwalk Radiology & Mammography Center more than 2 decades ago.

It was a small practice. Like many similar ones, it was run and owned by the doctors. Founders included Alan Richman, Tina Richman, James Bauman, Alan Levine and Richard Lisi. All lived in Westport or Weston.

Now, private practices like his — and entire hospitals — have been swallowed up by corporations. Hartford HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health System are big in this area. So is Nuvance Health, which bought Norwalk Hospital several years ago.

The economies of scale are clear for hospitals. For private practices, an advantage is that doctors no longer worry about the business of medicine. Payroll, HR, billing — it’s all off-loaded.

The downside is that they have less autonomy to run their practice exactly as they’d like. Mammograms, for example, are more efficient if they’re scheduled consecutively. It’s more time-consuming to talk to each patient individually after each one. But that’s also more soothing for the patients.

“A lot of women think of a mammogram as stressful,” Dr. Wasserman says. “The anxiety can be worse in a setting that lacks personal patient attention. We try to make patients as comfortable as possible.”

Norwalk Radiology & Mammography had a long relationship with Norwalk Hospital. But when their contract came up for its most recent renewal, the hospital went instead with a Danbury group. Nuvance is affiliated with Danbury Hospital too.

“They’re a good group,” Dr. Wasserman notes. But — because Nuvance kept the Norwalk Radiology & Mammography name for Norwalk Hospital — patients were confused.

Dr. Wasserman and his colleagues had wanted to keep their brand. So they renamed themselves Norwalk Radiology Consultants. Their goal was to provide “boutique” mammography services (covered by insurance), with personal attention.

Women scheduling exams through Norwalk Hospital did not always know that the doctors who had taken care of them for years now had a (slightly) different name.

“When they realize, they want to stay with us,” Dr. Wasserman says. “That’s very rewarding.”

What’s even more rewarding, though, is when women go back to scheduling yearly mammograms. Dr. Wasserman is trying to get the word out to everyone — no matter where they go, or who they see.

5 responses to “COVID Causes Mammogram Delays, Concerns

  1. Stacy Prince

    Having had a less-than-stellar experience with Nuvance before, I opted to stay with Wasserman’s group. My jaw hit the floor, after my last screening, when Dr. Wasserman walked in and introduced himself. At first I was petrified the screening had shown some anomaly — that’s the only time I’d ever seen a doctor in this setting before — but no: Dr. Wasserman was just introducing himself and being an actual human being! Quite the revelation.

  2. Cathy Barnett

    Thank you for sharing this info Dan. Like Stacy I chose to stay with the Norwalk Radiology Consultants. As Stacy mentioned, this group offers more personalized service. At my last appt the doctor actually came in and introduced herself! By the way NRC are still located at 148 East Ave Norwalk, 2nd floor while the group of radiologists associated with Norwalk Hospital (Nuvance Health) are at IPark on Rte 7 Norwalk at the former Perkin Elmer.

  3. Erica Davis

    I have used Dr. Wasserman for many years. All the doctors, technicians and staff are incredible, kind and caring.
    The personal attention given to all is what makes this process less stressful and less likely you will skip your yearly screening!!!

  4. Janet Navon

    Stayed with them

  5. Stacey Henske

    I too have had the same amazing experience, and am so glad I stayed with Dr. Wasserman’s group. The personal attention, incredibly caring staff and immediate results make the mammogram a little less stressful and I truly appreciate that. We are lucky to have them!!