Negligible advantages and excess costs of routine addition of breast ultrasonography to mammography in dense breasts

Beniamino Brancato, Rita Bonardi, Sandra Catarzi, Chiara Iacconi, Gabriella Risso, Renzo Taschini, Stefano Ciatto
Tumori 2007, 93 (6): 562-6

AIM: To assess the role of breast ultrasonography as a complement to negative mammography in radiologically dense breasts.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Out of a total series of 49,044 consecutive mammograms reported as negative in asymptomatic women, 25,665 (52.3%) were coded as dense (BI-RADS D3-4) and ultrasonography was recommended. Due to organizational problems, ultrasonography was performed immediately or within 1 month only in 5,227 cases, representing the study series.

RESULTS: Two cancers were detected at immediate ultrasonography (0.03%). The cancer detection rate in women aged 40-49 and 50-69 years was 0.002% and 0.07%, respectively. The benign biopsy rate was 0.5% for core biopsies and 0.02% for surgical biopsies. The cost per ultrasonography-assessed woman was Euro 56.05, whereas the cost per additional mammographically occult but ultrasonography-detected cancer was Euro 146,496.53. The mammograms of the 2 cancer cases underwent blind review by an expert reader and were confirmed as negative.

DISCUSSION: Our findings show a low cancer detection rate, substantially lower compared to other clinical studies of ultrasonography in dense breasts, though in accordance with preliminary evidence from an Italian randomized clinical trial within a population-based screening program. The policy of adding ultrasonography to negative mammography in dense breasts seems to have very limited cost-effectiveness, and should not be adopted in routine practice before results of ongoing clinical trials are available.

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