Errors in Mammography Cannot be Solved Through Technology Alone

Document Type : Systematic Review and Meta-analysis


Discipline of Medical Radiation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.


Mammography has been the frontline screening tool for breast cancer for decades. However, high error rates in the form of false negatives (FNs) and false positives (FPs) have persisted despite technological improvements. Radiologists still miss between 10% and 30% of cancers while 80% of woman recalled for additional views have normal outcomes, with 40% of biopsied lesions being benign. Research show that the majority of cancers missed is actually visible and looked at, but either go unnoticed or are deemed to be benign. Causal agents for these errors include human related characteristics resulting in contributory search, perception and decision-making behaviours. Technical, patient and lesion factors are also important relating to positioning, compression, patient size, breast density and presence of breast implants as well as the nature and subtype of the cancer itself, where features such as architectural distortion and triple-negative cancers remain challenging to detect on screening. A better understanding of these causal agents as well as the adoption of technological and educational interventions, which audits reader performance and provide immediate perceptual feedback, should help. This paper reviews the current status of our knowledge around error rates in mammography and explores the factors impacting it. It also presents potential solutions for maximizing diagnostic efficacy thus benefiting the millions of women who undergo this procedure each year.


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