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Ann Surg Oncol. 2013 Mar;20(3):850-5. doi: 10.1245/s10434-012-2710-y. Epub 2012 Oct 27.

A modified triple test for palpable breast masses: the value of ultrasound and core needle biopsy.

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Department of Surgical Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



The original triple test score (TTS)--clinical examination, mammogram, and fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy--has long been used to evaluate palpable breast masses. We modified the original TTS to include ultrasound (US) and core biopsy to determine their role in evaluating palpable breast masses.


A retrospective chart review of 320 female patients was performed. We developed a modified triple test score (mTTS) that included physical examination, mammogram and/or US, and FNA and/or core biopsy. For the examination and imaging score, 1-3 points were given for low, moderate, or high suspicion. Biopsy scores were characterized as benign, atypical, or malignant. Final outcome was determined by open biopsy or follow-up greater than 1 year.


Physical examination was 92% accurate (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.89-0.96, p < 0.0001) at predicting whether a mass was benign or malignant. Imaging was 88% accurate (95% CI 0.84-0.92, p < 0.0001) and needle biopsy was 95% accurate (95% CI 0.92-0.98, p < 0.0001). The modified triple test was 99% accurate (95% CI 0.98-1.00, p < 0.0001). Each 1-point increment in the mTTS was associated with an increased risk of cancer, with an odds ratio of 9.73 (CI 5.16-18.4, p < 0.0001). For 150 patients, we compared the original TTS with the mTTS. US and core biopsy changed the scores of 24 patients; only three changed clinical management.


For patients with a palpable breast mass and a mTTS score of 3-4, no further assessment is necessary. Those with a mTTS of 8-9 can proceed to definitive therapy. Patients with a mTTS of 5-7 require further assessment. US and/or core biopsy added little to the accuracy or predictive value of the original TTS.

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