CAD use for breast cancer patients leads to unnecessary tests

Despite its widespread use for detecting tumors in breast cancer patients, computer-aided detection (CAD) technology actually does a poor job of finding such tumors. Patients, because of this, are more likely to undergo unnecessary testing, a study published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concludes. 

Specifically, the use of CAD correlated with an increased number of false positive tumor findings, lead study author Joshua Fenton of the University of California, Davis and his fellow researchers determined. Prior to CAD use at a hospital, the false-positive rate for a mammogram was 8.1 percent; that number increased to 8.6 percent following CAD installation, Diagnostic Imaging reports. 

The study looked at records from more than 680,000 women who underwent roughly 1.6 million film-screen mammograms from 1998 through 2006. 

Dr. Donald Berry of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, was blunt in his assessment of the study's findings. He wrote in a commentary in JNCI that the fine tuning of CAD technology shouldn't expose "millions of women to a technology that may be more harmful than it is beneficial." 

Currently, three-fourths of the mammograms conducted in the U.S. use CAD software analysis, an accompanying article in JNCI points out. Additionally, CAD use costs Medicare $30 million annually.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the JNCI article
- check out the accompanying commentary
- here's the Diagnostic Imaging piece

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