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NPJ Breast Cancer. 2017 Apr 13;3:12. doi: 10.1038/s41523-017-0014-x. eCollection 2017.

The epidemiology, radiology and biological characteristics of interval breast cancers in population mammography screening.

Author information

1
Sydney School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW Australia.
2
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Trials Centre, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW Australia.

Abstract

An interval breast cancer is a cancer that emerges following a negative mammographic screen. This overview describes the epidemiology, and the radiological and biological characteristics of interval breast cancers in population mammography screening. Notwithstanding possible differences in ascertainment of interval breast cancers, there was broad variability in reported interval breast cancer rates (range 7.0 to 49.3 per 10,000 screens) reflecting heterogeneity in underlying breast cancer rates, screening rounds (initial or repeat screens), and the length and phase of the inter-screening interval. The majority of studies (based on biennial screening) reported interval breast cancer rates in the range of 8.4 to 21.1 per 10,000 screens spanning the two-year interval with the larger proportion occurring in the second year. Despite methodological limitations inherent in radiological surveillance (retrospective mammographic review) of interval breast cancers, this form of surveillance consistently reveals that the majority of interval cancers represent either true interval or occult cancers that were not visible on the index mammographic screen; approximately 20-25% of interval breast cancers are classified as having been missed (false-negatives). The biological characteristics of interval breast cancers show that they have relatively worse tumour prognostic characteristics and biomarker profile, and also survival outcomes, than screen-detected breast cancers; however, they have similar characteristics and prognosis as breast cancers occurring in non-screened women. There was limited evidence on the effect on interval breast cancer frequency and outcomes following transition from film to digital mammography screening.

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