Gene that causes rare breast cancer identified

January 24, 2016

"In the United States, the goal of screening is to achieve high sensitivity while keeping the rates of false positives low," Dr. Buist said. "No single measure can be calculated to make policy decisions, because any policy needs to weigh the tradeoff between missed cancers and false positives: Both have important impacts on women and society."

Dr. Buist added: "Based on these data, it would be beneficial if U.S. volume requirements could be increased to 1,000 or 1,500 screening mammograms per year, while adding a minimal requirement for diagnostic interpretation, which would optimize sensitivity and false-positive rates." According to her team's simulations, raising annual requirements for screening volume could lower the number of American women with false-positive workups-by more than 71,000 for annual minimums of 1,000, or by more than 117,000 year for annual minimums of 1,500-without hindering the detection of breast cancer.

On the other hand, raising the volume requirements could cause low-volume radiologists to stop reading mammograms. Concerns have been raised that the cadre of U.S. radiologists who read mammograms is aging and retiring. In this study, for instance, radiologists' median age was 54, and 38 percent of them interpreted fewer than 1,500 mammograms a year.

"Without more radiologists interpreting more mammograms, women may have less access to the only screening test that trials have shown can reduce deaths from breast cancer," Dr. Buist said. "Unlike the mammography debate about whether women in their 40s should be screened, which is based on the weight of harms of false positives, the tradeoff around volume policy will concern workforce issues and reporting requirements that would necessitate changes to how the FDA collects information on how many mammograms radiologists interpret." Her team has also been testing strategies for improving how well radiologists interpret mammograms.

Source: Group Health Research Institute