Why language barriers are detrimental in mammography

Mammography saves women's lives but language barriers prevent patients from making the most of it.

Female patient holding a paper up in front of her that looks like breasts

Screening mammography is currently the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer. The procedure uses X-rays to create images of the breast, which can help identify abnormalities that may indicate the presence of cancer. Because early detection of breast cancer can lead to more effective treatment and improved outcomes, mammography is an important part of a woman's preventive healthcare routine.

But the overall rate for mammography is 12% lower for women who do not speak the native language, according to an American study presented at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2020. For certain groups, such as Spanish-only speakers, the rate was as high as 27%.

Here is why the language barriers are so detrimental in breast cancer screening:

  • Patients may have difficulty understanding the instructions or consent forms. This can lead to confusion or misunderstandings that can affect the accuracy of the screening.
  • Not speaking the same language can make it difficult for the provider to effectively explain to the patient the importance of mammography and how to prepare for the procedure.
  • Cultural differences may affect a woman's willingness to discuss breast cancer with her healthcare provider or expose breasts for screening. Not being able to communicate makes it difficult to provide a safe environment for the patient, which can make women in those cultures less likely to undergo mammography.
  • Family members are not sufficient as translators because some of the information given in an appointment might not get passed on, often due to embarrassment.

Using Care to Translate in mammography

As screening plays such an important part in breast cancer prevention, minimizing these language barriers is essential to saving women’s lives!

We work together with several mammography clinics to help provide translation help when an interpreter is not present. Use the app to ask important questions, instruct the patient during the examination and explain next steps.

Do you work in mammography and are interested in how you can tear down language barriers? Let us show how you can use Care to Translate in your field. Book a free demo today.


Gursul, D. (2022) British-pakistani women are least likely to attend breast screening, NIHR Evidence. Available at: https://evidence.nihr.ac.uk/alert/cultural-and-language-barriers-need-to-be-addressed-for-british-pakistani-women-to-benefit-fully-from-breast-screening/ (Accessed: December 12, 2022).

Karliner, L.S. et al. (2012) “Language barriers, location of care, and delays in follow-up of abnormal mammograms,” Medical Care, 50(2), pp. 171–178. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1097/mlr.0b013e31822dcf2d.

Staff, T.A.S.C.O.P. (2020) Limited English-language proficiency may affect frequency of screening mammograms, The ASCO Post. Available at: https://ascopost.com/news/october-2020/limited-english-language-proficiency-may-affect-frequency-of-screening-mammograms/ (Accessed: December 12, 2022).