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Radiology. 2009 May;251(2):347-58. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2512081235.

Full-field digital versus screen-film mammography: comparison within the UK breast screening program and systematic review of published data.

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  • 1Breast Unit, St Bartholomew's Hospital, Barts and The London NHS Trust, West Smithfield, London EC1A7BE, England.



To (a) compare the performance of full-field digital mammography (FFDM), using hard-copy image reading, with that of screen-film mammography (SFM) within a UK screening program (screening once every 3 years) for women aged 50 years or older and (b) conduct a meta-analysis of published findings along with the UK data.


The study complied with the UK National Health Service Central Office for Research Ethics Committee guidelines; informed patient consent was not required, since analysis was carried out retrospectively after data anonymization. Between January 2006 and June 2007, a London population-based screening center performed 8478 FFDM and 31 720 SFM screening examinations, with modality determined by the type of machine available at the screening site. Logistic regression was used to assess whether breast cancer detection rates and recall rates differed between screening modalities. For the meta-analysis, random-effects models were used to combine study-specific estimates, if appropriate.


A total of 263 breast cancers were detected. After adjustment for age, ethnicity, area of residence, and type of referral, there was no evidence of differences between FFDM and SFM in terms of detection rates (0.68 [95% confidence interval {CI}: 0.47, 0.89] vs 0.72 [95% CI: 0.58, 0.85], respectively, per 100 screening mammograms; P = .74), recall rates (3.2% [95% CI: 2.8, 3.6] vs 3.4% [95% CI: 3.1, 3.6]; P = .44), positive predictive value (PPV) of an abnormal mammogram, or characteristics of detected tumors. Meta-analysis of data from eight studies showed a slightly higher detection rate for FFDM, particularly at 60 years of age or younger (pooled FFDM-SFM difference: 0.11 [95% CI: 0.04, 0.18] per 100 screening mammograms), but no clear modality differences in recall rates or PPVs.


Within a routine screening program, FFDM with hard-copy image reading performed as well as SFM in terms of process indicators; the meta-analysis was consistent with FFDM yielding detection rates at least as high as those for SFM.

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