Comparative effectiveness of combined digital mammography and tomosynthesis screening for women with dense breasts

Radiology. 2015 Mar;274(3):772-80. doi: 10.1148/radiol.14141237. Epub 2014 Oct 28.


Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness of combined biennial digital mammography and tomosynthesis screening, compared with biennial digital mammography screening alone, among women with dense breasts.

Materials and methods: An established, discrete-event breast cancer simulation model was used to estimate the comparative clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of biennial screening with both digital mammography and tomosynthesis versus digital mammography alone among U.S. women aged 50-74 years with dense breasts from a federal payer perspective and a lifetime horizon. Input values were estimated for test performance, costs, and health state utilities from the National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, Medicare reimbursement rates, and medical literature. Sensitivity analyses were performed to determine the implications of varying key model parameters, including combined screening sensitivity and specificity, transient utility decrement of diagnostic work-up, and additional cost of tomosynthesis.

Results: For the base-case analysis, the incremental cost per quality-adjusted life year gained by adding tomosynthesis to digital mammography screening was $53 893. An additional 0.5 deaths were averted and 405 false-positive findings avoided per 1000 women after 12 rounds of screening. Combined screening remained cost-effective (less than $100 000 per quality-adjusted life year gained) over a wide range of incremental improvements in test performance. Overall, cost-effectiveness was most sensitive to the additional cost of tomosynthesis.

Conclusion: Biennial combined digital mammography and tomosynthesis screening for U.S. women aged 50-74 years with dense breasts is likely to be cost-effective if priced appropriately (up to $226 for combined examinations vs $139 for digital mammography alone) and if reported interpretive performance metrics of improved specificity with tomosynthesis are met in routine practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Early Detection of Cancer / economics
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional* / economics
  • Mammography* / economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement* / economics