A computer is just as good as a second pair of eyes for helping radiologists to detect breast cancer on a mammogram, one of the largest and most rigid tests of computer-aided detection available, according to a new study.
A mammogram is an X-ray that is used to screen for breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.
The mammogram is not perfect, occasionally such medical professionals (radiologists, doctors, nurses) fail to properly read and analyze the results of mammograms.
Computer-aided detection, or CAD, was developed to help radiologists detect more cancers. Approved over a decade ago, these computers are now used for a nearly a third of the nation’s mammograms.
“Mammograms read by a single radiologist using CAD, has been just as effective as having films read by two different readers,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Fiona Gilbert, a professor of radiology at the University of Aberdeen in the UK.
A radiologist has the final say on recall, which refers to the number of women who are called back if abnormalities are detected, using their years of experience and knowledge to decipher if any areas of the mammogram marked by CAD requires further testing, she said.
In places like the United States, "Where single reading is standard practice, computer-aided detection has the potential to improve cancer-detection rates to the level achieved by double reading," Dr. Thomas Hall, director of breast imaging for Providence Hospital, this is not common practice in the United States.
Researchers wanted to know if a single expert, using a computer could do just as well as two experts. They found that computer-aided detection found nearly the same amount of cancers – 198 of 227, compared to 199 of two readers.
The study, Single Reading with Computer-Aided Detection for Screening Mammography, is published in the October 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
CAD could help to increase cancer detection rates of a single reader in breast screening centers currently using a single reader by ten percent,” said Gilbert.
“Clearly there are advantages to digital mammography with CAD. While digital helps you to better visualize the anatomy, CAD keeps you on your toes,” Hall said.
The National Cancer Institute estimates 184,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008, of them, 41,000 women will die of the disease.
Another recent study found a new experimental technique called molecular breast imaging (also referred to as MBI) was three times more effective than traditional mammography at detecting breast cancer tumors in women who have dense breast tissue, researchers said. #