Effect of age on breast cancer screening using tomosynthesis in combination with digital mammography

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2017 Aug;164(3):659-666. doi: 10.1007/s10549-017-4299-0. Epub 2017 May 18.


Purpose: To determine the effect of tomosynthesis imaging as a function of age for breast cancer screening.

Methods: Screening performance metrics from 13 institutions were examined for 12 months prior to introduction of tomosynthesis (period 1) and compared to those after introduction of tomosynthesis (period 2, range 3-22 months). Screening metrics for women ages 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70+ , included rates per 1000 screens for recalls, biopsies, cancers, and invasive cancers detected.

Results: Performance parameters were compared for women screened with digital mammography alone (n = 278,908) and digital mammography + tomosynthesis (n = 173,414). Addition of tomosynthesis to digital mammography produced significant reductions in recall rates for all age groups and significant increases in cancer detection rates for women 40-69. Largest recall rate reduction with tomosynthesis was for women 40-49, decreasing from 137 (95% CI 117-156) to 115 (95% CI 95-135); difference, -22 (95% CI -26 to -18; P < .001). Simultaneous increase in invasive cancer detection rate for women 40-49 from 1.6 (95% CI 1.2-1.9) to 2.7 (95% CI 2.2-3.1) with tomosynthesis (difference, 1.1; 95% CI 0.6-1.6; P < .001) was observed.

Conclusions: Addition of tomosynthesis to digital mammography increased invasive cancer detection rates for women 40-69 and decreased recall rates for all age groups with largest performance gains seen in women 40-49. The similar performance seen with tomosynthesis screening for women in their 40s compared to digital mammography for women in their 50s argues strongly for commencement of mammography screening at age 40 using tomosynthesis.

Keywords: Biopsy; Breast neoplasms; Cancer detection rate; Mammography; Mass screening.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimodal Imaging
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity