Purpose: To examine how common patient factors affect screening mammographic sensitivity and cancer stage at diagnosis.
Materials and methods: The authors used a population-based database of 183,134 screening mammograms and a statewide tumor registry to identify 807 breast cancers detected at screening mammography.
Results: Sensitivity varied significantly with ethnicity, use of estrogen replacement therapy, mammographic breast density, and age. Sensitivity was 54% (13 of 24) in women younger than 40 years, 77% (121 of 157) in women aged 40-49 years, 78% (224 of 286) in women aged 50-64 years, and 81% (277 of 340) in women older than 64 years. Sensitivity was 68% (162 of 237) for dense breasts and 85% (302 of 356) for nondense breasts and 74% (180 of 244) in estrogen replacement therapy users and 81% (417 of 513) in nonusers. Sensitivity was most markedly reduced with the combination of dense breasts and estrogen replacement therapy use; there was little difference when only one factor was present. Median cancer size and the percentage of early cancers showed little change with any factors.
Conclusion: Age is a minor determinant of mammographic sensitivity in women aged 40 years or older. Sensitivity is substantially decreased with the combination of higher breast density and estrogen replacement therapy use. There was not a notable shift in cancer outcomes in the groups with lower mammographic sensitivity. These data do not support different screening recommendations in women aged 40-49 years or in estrogen replacement therapy users.