False-negative rates of breast cancer screening with and without digital breast tomosynthesis


Advocate Lutheran General Hospital


Background Screening with digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) improves breast cancer detection and recall rates compared with those obtained with digital mammography (DM); however, the impact of DBT on patient survival has not been established. False-negative (FN) screening examinations can be a surrogate for long-term outcomes, such as breast cancer morbidity and mortality.

Purpose To determine if screening with DBT is associated with lower FN rates, detection of cancers with more favorable prognoses, and improved performance outcomes versus DM.

Materials and Methods This retrospective study involved 10 academic and community practices. DM screening examinations 1 year prior to DBT implementation and DBT screening examinations from the start date until June 30, 2013, were linked to cancers through June 30, 2014, with data collection in 2016 and analysis in 2018-2019. Cancers after FN examinations were characterized by presentation, either symptomatic or asymptomatic. FN rates, sensitivity, specificity, cancer detection and recall rates, positive predictive values, tumor size, histologic features, and receptor profile were compared.

Results A total of 380 641 screening examinations were included. There were 183 989 DBT and 196 652 DM examinations. With DBT, rates trended lower for overall FN examinations (DBT, 0.6 per 1000 screens; DM, 0.7 per 1000 screens; DM: 0.07 per 1000 screens; P = .07). With DBT, improved sensitivity (DBT, 89.8% [966 of 1076 cancers]; DM, 85.6% [789 of 922 cancers]; P = .004) and specificity (DBT, 90.7% [165 830 of 182 913 examinations]; DM, 89.1% [174 480 of 195 730 examinations]; P < .001) were observed. Overall, cancers identified with DBT were more frequently invasive (P < .001), had fewer positive lymph nodes (P = .04) and distant metastases (P = .01), and had lower odds of an FN finding of advanced cancer (odds ratio, 0.9 [95% CI: 0.5, 1.5]).

Conclusion Screening with digital breast tomosynthesis improves sensitivity and specificity and reveals more invasive cancers with fewer nodal or distant metastases.

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