Screening Performance of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis vs Digital Mammography in Community Practice by Patient Age, Screening Round, and Breast Density

JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Jul 1;3(7):e2011792. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.11792.


Importance: Digital mammography (DM) and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) are used for routine breast cancer screening. There is minimal evidence on performance outcomes by age, screening round, and breast density in community practice.

Objective: To compare DM vs DBT performance by age, baseline vs subsequent screening round, and breast density category.

Design, setting, and participants: This comparative effectiveness study assessed 1 584 079 screening examinations of women aged 40 to 79 years without prior history of breast cancer, mastectomy, or breast augmentation undergoing screening mammography at 46 participating Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium facilities from January 2010 to April 2018.

Exposures: Age, Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System breast density category, screening round, and modality.

Main outcomes and measures: Absolute rates and relative risks (RRs) of screening recall and cancer detection.

Results: Of 1 273 492 DM and 310 587 DBT examinations analyzed, 1 028 891 examinations (65.0%) were of white non-Hispanic women; 399 952 women (25.2%) were younger than 50 years; and 671 136 women (42.4%) had heterogeneously dense or extremely dense breasts. Adjusted differences in DM vs DBT performance were largest on baseline examinations: for example, per 1000 baseline examinations in women ages 50 to 59, recall rates decreased from 241 examinations for DM to 204 examinations for DBT (RR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.73-0.98), and cancer detection rates increased from 5.9 with DM to 8.8 with DBT (RR, 1.50; 95% CI, 1.10-2.08). On subsequent examinations, women aged 40 to 79 years with heterogeneously dense breasts had improved recall rates and improved cancer detection with DBT. For example, per 1000 examinations in women aged 50 to 59 years, the number of recall examinations decreased from 102 with DM to 93 with DBT (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84-0.98), and cancer detection increased from 3.7 with DM to 5.3 with DBT (RR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.23-1.64). Women aged 50 to 79 years with scattered fibroglandular density also had improved recall and cancer detection rates with DBT. Women aged 40 to 49 years with scattered fibroglandular density and women aged 50 to 79 years with almost entirely fatty breasts benefited from improved recall rates without change in cancer detection rates. No improvements in recall or cancer detection rates were observed in women with extremely dense breasts on subsequent examinations for any age group.

Conclusions and relevance: This study found that improvements in recall and cancer detection rates with DBT were greatest on baseline mammograms. On subsequent screening mammograms, the benefits of DBT varied by age and breast density. Women with extremely dense breasts did not benefit from improved recall or cancer detection with DBT on subsequent screening rounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Density / physiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Community Health Services / methods
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / methods
  • Mammography / standards*
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data