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Computer-aided Mammography: Should You Consider It?

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What Is Computer-aided Mammography? | What Does the Evidence Say? | What Should You Do?

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in American women. Chances of successful treatment are the greatest when the cancer is detected in its early stages. Mammography is a screening test which creates images of the breasts so a radiologist can locate suspicious areas. Mammography is not perfect, and researchers are working on ways to improve its accuracy. One type of technology to try make mammograms better is computer-aided mammography, also known as computer-aided detection (CAD).

What Is Computer-aided Mammography?

In traditional mammography, a radiologist reviews an x-ray of the breast to locate any suspicious areas and determine whether further diagnostic testing is necessary. With CAD, the radiologist uses a computer program to help detect suspicious areas on a mammogram after the initial review is done.

What Does the Evidence Say?

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that CAD may falsely suggest suspicious areas of growth in the breast, but may not substantially detect more breast cancer cases. The study reported that for every 100,000 mammograms, 2,985 more false positive mammograms will occur, and five more cancers will be detected. In another recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers concluded that the use of CAD did not improve the rate of detecting cancer.

What Should You Do?

Researchers are continuing to look for ways to improve the accuracy of mammography. CAD is one of the many types of breast imaging technologies available today, including ultrasound, digital mammography, and MRI.

When scheduling your next mammogram, you may want to find out if CAD or another advanced breast imaging technology is available in your area. If it is, you and your doctor can decide if the technology is right for you. If your facility does not offer CAD, remember that the most important consideration for getting a quality mammogram is having a well-trained radiologist read the results.


American Cancer Society


National Breast Cancer Foundation



Breast Cancer Society of Canada


Radiology for Patients



Computer-aided detection offers same accuracy as double-reading mammography. BreastCancer.org website. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/new_research/20081001b.jsp. Published October 1, 2008. Accessed October 31, 2013.

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Ellis RL, Meade AA, Mathiason MA, Willison KM, Logan-Young W. Evaluation of computer-aided detection systems in the detection of small invasive breast carcinoma. Radiology. 2007;245(1):88-94.

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Fenton J, Taplin S, Carney P, et al. Influence of computer-aided detection on performance of screening mammography. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(14):1399-1409.

Gur D, Sumkin JH, Rockette HE, et al. Changes in breast cancer detection and mammography recall rates after the introduction of a computer-aided detection system. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004;96:185-190.

Mammography for breast cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated September 12, 2013. Accessed October 31, 2013.

What you need to know about breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/breast/page1. Accessed October 31, 2013.

Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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