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Mammogram Interpretation Has a Learning Curve

February 9, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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A new study confirms: Practice makes perfect when interpreting mammogram screenings, and fellowship training can make a difference. The study comes from Seattle researchers who compared mammogram screening interpretations by radiologists with and without fellowship training.  Their findings are published in the December 2009 issue of Radiology,

Using data from the National Cancer Institute, researchers identified 231 radiologists throughout the U.S. who had interpreted mammogram screenings over nine years. Only screen-film mammography was included to simplify the study, and only mammograms of women without breast augmentation were used. Radiologists were surveyed for these criteria:

  • age and gender
  • years of mammogram interpretation
  • fellowship training in breast imaging
  • volume of mammograms interpreted independently
  • percentage of time spent working in breast imaging
  • practice in an academic medical center

Sensitivity, false-positive rates, positive predictive value, and recall rates were all calculated.

Results showed radiologists without fellowship training and with longer experienc had lower false-positive rates and tended to have higher positive-predictive values. For radiologists without fellowship training, overall performance tended to improve over time, with the greatest improvement seen over the first three years. For those with fellowship training, performance was good from the first year on; added experience made no real difference in recall rates, false-positive rates, or positive-predictive value.

“These results indicate the importance of auditing data in all practices performing screening mammography,” said Basil Hubbard, MD, who reviewed the study.

Related seminar: Essential Steps to Improve Mammography Interpretations

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