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Radiology. 2009 Apr;251(1):41-9. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2511071462.

Comparison of soft-copy and hard-copy reading for full-field digital mammography.

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Carl J. Vyborny Translation Laboratory for Breast Imaging Research, Department of Radiology, University of Chicago, 5841 S Maryland Ave, MC-2026, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.



To compare radiologists' performance in detecting breast cancer when reading full-field digital mammographic (FFDM) images either displayed on monitors or printed on film.


This study received investigational review board approval and was HIPAA compliant, with waiver of informed consent. A reader study was conducted in which 26 radiologists read screening FFDM images displayed on high-resolution monitors (soft-copy digital) and printed on film (hard-copy digital). Three hundred thirty-three cases were selected from the Digital Mammography Image Screening Trial screening study (n = 49,528). Of these, 117 were from patients who received a diagnosis of breast cancer within 15 months of undergoing screening mammography. The digital mammograms were displayed on mammographic workstations and printed on film according to the manufacturer's specifications. Readers read both hard-copy and soft-copy images 6 weeks apart. Each radiologist read a subset of the total images. Twenty-two readers were assigned to evaluate images from one of three FFDM systems, and four readers were assigned to evaluate images from two mammographic systems. Each radiologist assigned a malignancy score on the basis of overall impression by using a seven-point scale, where 1 = definitely not malignant and 7 = definitely malignant.


There were no significant differences in the areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUCs) for the primary comparison. The AUCs for soft-copy and hard-copy were 0.75 and 0.76, respectively (95% confidence interval: -0.04, 0.01; P = .36). Secondary analyses showed no significant differences in AUCs on the basis of manufacturer type, lesion type, or breast density.


Soft-copy reading does not provide an advantage in the interpretation of digital mammograms. However, the display formats were not optimized and display software remains an evolving process, particularly for soft-copy reading.

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