Breast cancer detected with screening US: reasons for nondetection at mammography

Radiology. 2014 Feb;270(2):369-77. doi: 10.1148/radiol.13130724. Epub 2013 Nov 6.


Purpose: To retrospectively review the mammograms of women with breast cancers detected at screening ultrasonography (US) to determine the reasons for nondetection at mammography.

Materials and methods: This study received institutional review board approval, and informed consent was waived. Between 2003 and 2011, a retrospective database review revealed 335 US-depicted cancers in 329 women (median age, 47 years; age range, 29-69 years) with Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System breast density type 2-4. Five blinded radiologists independently reviewed the mammograms to determine whether the findings on negative mammograms should be recalled. Three unblinded radiologists re-reviewed the mammograms to determine the reasons for nondetection by using the reference location of the cancer on mammograms obtained after US-guided wire localization or breast magnetic resonance imaging. The number of cancers recalled by the blinded radiologists were compared with the reasons for nondetection determined by the unblinded radiologists.

Results: Of the 335 US-depicted cancers, 63 (19%) were recalled by three or more of the five blinded radiologists, and 272 (81%) showed no mammographic findings that required immediate action. In the unblinded repeat review, 263 (78%) cancers were obscured by overlapping dense breast tissue, and nine (3%) were not included at mammography owing to difficult anatomic location or poor positioning. Sixty-three (19%) cancers were considered interpretive errors. Of these, 52 (82%) were seen as subtle findings (46 asymmetries, six calcifications) and 11 (18%) were evident (six focal asymmetries, one distortion, four calcifications).

Conclusion: Most breast cancers (81%) detected at screening US were not seen at mammography, even in retrospect. In addition, 19% had subtle or evident findings missed at mammography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Mammary*