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Radiologist Training Can Affect Mammography Results

Radiologists with advanced training find more breast cancers, but also have more false positives

MONDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Radiologists with fellowship training spot breast cancers in mammography screening more than those without fellowship training, but also record more false positives, according to a study in the December issue of Radiology.

Joann G. Elmore, M.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues surveyed radiologists in seven U.S. regions for information about demographics and practice characteristics, along with perceptions of radiology in general and mammography in particular. These data were linked to data on screening mammograms performed by the responding radiologists during 1998 to 2005. The researchers analyzed the data to determine whether characteristics of the radiologists were associated with screening performance, including recall rate, false-positive rate, sensitivity, or positive predictive value of recall (PPV1).

The researchers found that among the 257 radiologist respondents, median recall rate was 9.3 percent, median false-positive rate was 8.9 percent, median sensitivity was 83.8 percent, and median PPV1 was 4 percent. Recall and false-positive rates were higher among radiologists with fellowship training (11.6 and 11 percent, respectively), radiologists with less than 10 years experience (13.1 and 12.8 percent, respectively), and female radiologists (11.4 and 11.2 percent, respectively). However, fellowship training in breast imaging also was associated with higher sensitivity and overall accuracy.

"Despite variability in interpretive performance, we found that radiologists with fellowship training in breast imaging had significantly higher sensitivity and higher overall accuracy in screening mammograms than did non-fellowship-trained radiologists. However, these fellowship-trained radiologists also had higher recall and false-positive rates," the authors write.

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