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Wednesday
Jul272011

Computer-Aided Mammography Is Costly But Seemingly Useless, Study Finds

Comstock/Jupiterimages(DAVIS, Calif.) -- Computer-Assisted Detection, or CAD -- used to help radiologists interpret mammography scans -- is supposed to mark potential abnormalities on a mammogram that radiologists might otherwise miss.  

Approved by the FDA in 1998, the technology increases the cost of mammography by nine to 15 percent.  But does it actually improve breast cancer detection?  According to a University of California, Davis -- not really.

The authors analyzed the records of almost 685,000 women who underwent over 1.6 million mammograms between 1998 and 2006.  Of the 90 facilities included in the evaluation, almost 28 percent had adopted CAD during this time and used it for an average of a bit more than two years. They found that CAD use led to an increased number of false-positive results, it failed to improve the rate of detection of real abnormalities, and did not improve the rate of breast cancer detection overall.  

The authors explain in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that “breast cancers were detected at a similar stage and size regardless of whether or not radiologists used CAD.”  Although these findings bring into question the need for CAD in general, the authors also suggest that the lack of effectiveness may arise because radiologists don’t always use the technology strictly as designed, thereby reducing its usefulness.

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