One-stop diagnostic breast clinics: how often are breast cancers missed?

Br J Cancer. 2009 Jun 16;100(12):1873-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605082. Epub 2009 May 19.


The aim of this study was to estimate the number of patients discharged from a symptomatic breast clinic who subsequently develop breast cancer and to determine how many of these cancers had been 'missed' at initial assessment. Over a 3-year period, 7004 patients were discharged with a nonmalignant diagnosis. Twenty-nine patients were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer over the next 36 months. This equates to a symptomatic 'interval' cancer rate of 4.1 per 1000 women in the 36 months after initial assessment (0.9 per 1000 women within 12 months, 2.6 per 1000 women within 24 months). The lowest sensitivity of initial assessment was seen in patients of 40-49 years of age, and these patients present the greatest imaging and diagnostic challenge. Following multidisciplinary review, a consensus was reached on whether a cancer had been missed or not. No delay occurred in 10 patients (35%) and probably no delay in 7 patients (24%). Possible delay occurred in three patients (10%) and definite delay in diagnosis (i.e., a 'missed' cancer) occurred in only nine patients (31%). The overall diagnostic accuracy of 'triple' assessment is 99.6% and the 'missed' cancer rate is 1.7 per 1000 women discharged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors