Cost-effectiveness of digital mammography breast cancer screening

Ann Intern Med. 2008 Jan 1;148(1):1-10. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-148-1-200801010-00002.


Background: The DMIST (Digital Mammography Imaging Screening Trial) reported improved breast cancer detection with digital mammography compared with film mammography in selected population subgroups, but it did not assess the economic value of digital relative to film mammography screening.

Objective: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of digital mammography screening for breast cancer.

Design: Validated, discrete-event simulation model.

Data sources: Data from DMIST and publicly available U.S. data.

Target population: U.S. women age 40 years or older.

Time horizon: Lifetime.

Perspective: Societal and Medicare.

Intervention: All-film mammography screening; all-digital mammography screening; and targeted digital mammography screening, which is age-targeted digital mammography (for women <50 years of age) and age- and density-targeted digital mammography (for women <50 years of age or women > or =50 years of age with dense breasts).

Outcome measures: Cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained.

Results of base-case analysis: All-digital mammography screening cost $331,000 (95% CI, $268,000 to $403,000) per QALY gained relative to all-film mammography screening but was more costly and less effective than targeted digital mammography screening. Targeted digital mammography screening resulted in more screen-detected cases of cancer and fewer deaths from cancer than either all-film or all-digital mammography screening, with cost-effectiveness estimates ranging from $26,500 (CI, $21,000 to $33,000) per QALY gained for age-targeted digital mammography to $84,500 (CI, $75,000 to $93,000) per QALY gained for age- and density-targeted digital mammography. In the Medicare population, the cost-effectiveness of density-targeted digital mammography screening varied from a base-case estimate of $97,000 (CI, $77,000 to $131,000) to $257,000 per QALY gained (CI, $91,000 to $536,000) in the alternative-case analyses, in which the sensitivity of film mammography was increased and the sensitivity of digital mammography in women with nondense breasts was decreased.

Results of sensitivity analysis: Results were sensitive to the cost of digital mammography and to the prevalence of dense breasts.

Limitations: Results were dependent on model assumptions and DMIST findings.

Conclusion: Relative to film mammography, screening for breast cancer by using all-digital mammography is not cost-effective. Age-targeted screening with digital mammography seems cost-effective, whereas density-targeted screening strategies are more costly and of uncertain value, particularly among women age 65 years or older.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast / anatomy & histology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / economics*
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Medicare / economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States