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False Positives Fall With Greater Volume of Mammograms

Last Updated: February 22, 2011.

Interpreting a high volume of mammograms may not lead radiologists to find more cancers but may help them to better distinguish between malignant and non-malignant lesions, according to research published online Feb. 22 in Radiology.

TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Interpreting a high volume of mammograms may not lead radiologists to find more cancers but may help them to better distinguish between malignant and non-malignant lesions, according to research published online Feb. 22 in Radiology.

Diana S.M. Buist, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, and colleagues collected annual interpretive volume measures from 120 radiologists between 2002 and 2006 to investigate whether interpretive volume has an effect on screening mammography performance.

The researchers found that performance varied by number of exams performed and by the ratio of screening to total mammograms. The mean sensitivity of 85.2 percent did not vary significantly by total, screening, or diagnostic volume, though it was significantly lower for those with a greater screening focus. The mean false-positive rate was 9.1 percent, and the false-positive rate was significantly higher for those with lowest total and screening volumes. Radiologists who had a low diagnostic volume and a greater screening focus had significantly lower rates of false positives and cancer detection, respectively.

"Increasing minimum interpretive volume requirements in the United States while adding a minimal requirement for diagnostic interpretation could reduce the number of false-positive work-ups without hindering cancer detection. These results provide detailed associations between mammography volumes and performance for policymakers to consider along with work force, practice organization, and access issues and radiologist experience when reevaluating requirements," the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to Hologic.

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