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Radiol Med. 2006 Apr;111(3):440-8. Epub 2006 Apr 11.

Role of ultrasonography in detecting mammographically occult breast carcinoma in women with dense breasts.

[Article in English, Italian]

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  • 1Ambulatori Oncologici Raphael, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, I-25011, Calcinato (BS), Italy.



The purpose of this study was to assess the usefulness of routine ultrasonography in women with negative mammography and dense breasts [Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BIRADS D3-4)].


We applied a protocol involving routine ultrasonography in a consecutive series of subjects with negative mammography and dense breasts. After evaluation by internal and external reviewers of cancers detected by ultrasonography performed to confirm negative mammography, we determined the additional cancer detection rate of ultrasonography and the cost of the protocol.


Out of 17,883 total mammographies, 167 cancers were diagnosed (detection rate: 0.93%). Out of 257 suspicious mammographies, 138 cancers were detected. Out of 17,626 negative mammographies, 6,449 (36.5%) were classified as "dense breast" and underwent ultrasonography: 29 cancers were detected (detection rate: 0.44%, or 17.3% of total cancers). Out of 25 cancer cases reviewed, negative mammography and asymptomatic status was confirmed in 15 (detection rate 0.23%, or 8.9% of total cancers). The cancer detection rate was 0.11%, 0.22%, 0.32% and 0.14% for age groups <40, 40-49, 50-59 and >59, respectively. The cost per additional carcinoma detected by ultrasonography alone was euro 25,847.85 whereas that per examined woman was euro 21.68.


The study confirms the possibility that ultrasonography can detect mammographically occult breast carcinoma in dense breasts. The evidence is insufficient to recommend this policy in routine screening practice but suggests that, at least in current clinical practice, adding ultrasonography in dense breasts may be useful despite the substantial costs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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