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Study: Computer Is No Help With Mammograms

July 28, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Computer-aided detection (CAD) doesn’t help radiologists analyze mammograms. All it seems to do, in fact, is increase the rate of false positives, causing women to be called back for needless biopsies or other additional tests.

So concludes a study published online Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI). Joshua Fenton, MD, the lead author, explained the conclusions this way:

In real-world practice, CAD increases the chances of being unnecessarily called back for further testing because of false-positive results without clear benefits to women. Breast cancers were detected at a similar stage and size regardless of whether or not radiologists used CAD.

Dr. Fenton was quoted in a news release from the UC Davis Health System, where he is an assistant professor of family and community medicine.

The researchers looked at records from 684,956 women who received more than 1.6 million film-screen mammograms at Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium facilities in seven U.S. states from 1998 through 2006.

CAD, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998, in effect prescreens mammogram images and flags suspicious areas for radiologists to examine. Since Medicare began covering it in 2001, CAD’s popularity has exploded. It’s now used on a large majority of U.S. screening mammograms, with direct Medicare costs of more than $30 million a year, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

In an accompanying JNCI editorial, also published online Wednesday, Donald A. Berry, PhD, analyzes the study from a statistical perspective. (He’s chair of the Department of Biostatistics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.)

He finds the study well-designed and credible and concludes:

Researchers and device companies should work to make the software ever better. But this should happen in an experimental setting and not while exposing millions of women to a technology that may be more harmful than it is beneficial.

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One Response to “Study: Computer Is No Help With Mammograms”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Health Care Jobs Grow; Not For Radiographers on September 9th, 2011 at 10:02 am

    […] of the managers reported using computer-aided detection for second reading of mammograms, though a recent study found that CAD didn’t help and only increased the rate of false […]