Computer-Aided Mammograms: Not Worth the Cost?

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Computer-Aided Mammograms
Computer-Aided Mammograms

(HealthDay News) — Computer-aided detection added to mammography may not improve breast cancer detection, a new study contends. The findings appear online September 28 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The current investigation compared results of 495,818 mammogram screenings done using computer-aided detection with 129,807 mammograms evaluated without the computerized assistance. The screenings, which involved 323,973 women ages 40–89, were interpreted by 271 radiologists. All the screenings took place after 2003, by which point radiologists should have been well-versed in how to use the computer software, the researchers said.

Study leader Constance Lehman, MD, PhD, told HealthDay that computer-aided detection failed to improve cancer detection, or sensitivity or specificity performance relative to mammography screenings evaluated without the expensive software. The overall cancer detection rate was 4.1 in 1,000 women screened with either method.

"There may be reasons that a center or radiologist may still want to use this," Lehman said of the software. "For example, some centers might feel that computer-aided detection improves workflow by speeding up the time it takes for the radiologist to read charts. We did not look at that, and if that's the case that's fine," she said. "But then that's an administrative issue, not a clinical concern. And it's not a cost that should be passed on to patients."

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