Computer-aided Mammography: Should You Consider It?
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in American women. Chances of successful treatment are the greatest when the cancer is detected in its early stages. Mammography is a screening test which creates images of the breasts so a radiologist can locate suspicious areas. Mammography is not perfect and researchers are working on ways to improve its accuracy. One type of technology to try make mammograms better is computer-aided mammography, also known as computer-aided detection (CAD).
What Is Computer-aided Mammography?
In traditional mammography, a radiologist reviews an x-ray of the breast to locate any suspicious areas and determine whether further diagnostic testing is necessary. With CAD, the radiologist uses a computer program to help detect suspicious areas on a mammogram after the initial review is done.
What Does the Evidence Say?
The evidence does not all agree, but there are a few conclusions that may be drawn.
- CAD might be slightly better at detecting breast cancers, especially ductal carcinoma in situ.
- More women may have false positives (a finding that looks like cancer, but is not).
- CAD may increase the number of breast biopsies.
What Should You Do?
Researchers are continuing to look for ways to improve the accuracy of mammography. CAD is one of the many types of breast imaging technologies available today, including ultrasound, digital mammography, and MRI.
When scheduling your next mammogram, you may want to find out if CAD or another advanced breast imaging technology is available in your area. If it is, you and your doctor can decide if the technology is right for you. If your facility does not offer CAD, remember that the most important consideration for getting a quality mammogram is having a well-trained radiologist read the results.
American Cancer Society
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Breast Cancer Society of Canada
Radiology for Patients
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Computer-aided detection offers same accuracy as double-reading mammography. Breast Cancer website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20081001b. Accessed August 23, 2017.
Fenton J, Abraham L, Taplin S, et al. Effectiveness of computer-aided detection in community mammography practice. J Natl Cancer Inst 2011;103(15):1152.
Gur D, Sumkin JH, Rockette HE, et al. Changes in breast cancer detection and mammography recall rates after the introduction of a computer-aided detection system. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004;96(3):185-190.
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Last reviewed August 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 10/31/2013