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Radiology. 2011 Apr;259(1):72-84. doi: 10.1148/radiol.10101698. Epub 2011 Feb 22.

Influence of annual interpretive volume on screening mammography performance in the United States.

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Group Health Research Institute, Group Health Cooperative, 1730 Minor Ave, Suite 1600, Seattle, WA 98101, USA.



To examine whether U.S. radiologists' interpretive volume affects their screening mammography performance.


Annual interpretive volume measures (total, screening, diagnostic, and screening focus [ratio of screening to diagnostic mammograms]) were collected for 120 radiologists in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) who interpreted 783 965 screening mammograms from 2002 to 2006. Volume measures in 1 year were examined by using multivariate logistic regression relative to screening sensitivity, false-positive rates, and cancer detection rate the next year. BCSC registries and the Statistical Coordinating Center received institutional review board approval for active or passive consenting processes and a Federal Certificate of Confidentiality and other protections for participating women, physicians, and facilities. All procedures were compliant with the terms of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.


Mean sensitivity was 85.2% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 83.7%, 86.6%) and was significantly lower for radiologists with a greater screening focus (P = .023) but did not significantly differ by total (P = .47), screening (P = .33), or diagnostic (P = .23) volume. The mean false-positive rate was 9.1% (95% CI: 8.1%, 10.1%), with rates significantly higher for radiologists who had the lowest total (P = .008) and screening (P = .015) volumes. Radiologists with low diagnostic volume (P = .004 and P = .008) and a greater screening focus (P = .003 and P = .002) had significantly lower false-positive and cancer detection rates, respectively. Median invasive tumor size and proportion of cancers detected at early stages did not vary by volume.


Increasing minimum interpretive volume requirements in the United States while adding a minimal requirement for diagnostic interpretation could reduce the number of false-positive work-ups without hindering cancer detection. These results provide detailed associations between mammography volumes and performance for policymakers to consider along with workforce, practice organization, and access issues and radiologist experience when reevaluating requirements.

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