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Accuracy of diagnostic mammograms varies by radiologist
Date:12/11/2007

SEATTLEFor women with breast symptoms such as lumps, the ability of diagnostic mammograms to detect breast cancer accurately depends strongly on which radiologist reads them, according to a Group Health study published online on December 11 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

When a woman gets a mammogram, she wants to know that if she has breast cancer, the mammogram will be likely to detect it, said study leader Diana Miglioretti, PhD, an associate investigator at Group Health Center for Health Studies. This is especially important when the woman has a breast concern such as a lump.

Ideally, this ability to accurately detect cancer (known as sensitivity) would be consistently high, with few false-positivesbiopsies performed despite the absence of cancer. And it wouldnt depend on which radiologist was reading the mammograms. But thats not what we found, she added.

The research team examined how well 123 radiologists interpreted nearly 36,000 diagnostic mammograms done to evaluate breast problems, such as lumps, from 1996 through 2003 at 72 U.S. facilities, including six from Group Health, that contribute data to the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.

For different radiologists, sensitivity ranged from 27 percent to 100 percent; and false-positives, from 0 to 16 percent. These differences were only partially explained by the characteristics of the patients and the experience of the radiologists.

The radiologists who read diagnostic mammograms most accurately (with highest sensitivity, without too many false-positives) tended to be those who were based at academic medical centers or spent at least 20 percent of their time on breast imaging. By contrast, unlike in Europe, most U.S. women get mammograms interpreted by general radiologists who interpret mammograms as only a small percentage of their practice.

We need to reduce the wide variability among radiologists in how they interpret diagnosticand scre
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Contact: Joan DeClaire
declaire.j@ghc.org
206-287-2653
Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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