Effect of radiologists’ experience on breast cancer detection and localization using digital breast tomosynthesis

The objectives are To to compare the diagnostic performance of combined digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) and digital mammography (DM) with that of DM alone, as a function of radiologists' experience with DBT.

Ethical committee approval was obtained. Fifty cases (27 cancer, 23 normal), each containing both digital mammography (DM) and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) images, were reviewed by 26 radiologists, divided into three groups according to level of experience with DBT (none, workshop experience, and clinical experience). The radiologists' diagnostic performance using DM was compared with that using DM + DBT, and evaluated by area under receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC), jackknife free-response receiver-operator characteristics figure of metric (JAFROC FOM), sensitivity, location sensitivity, and specificity.

For all readers combined, performance using DM + DBT was significantly higher than for DM alone by both AUC (0.788 vs 0.681, p < 0.001) and JAFROC FOM (0.745 vs 0.621, p < 0.001). Similar results were obtained for readers with no DBT experience (AUC 0.775 vs 0.682, p = 0.004; JAFROC FOM 0.695 vs 0.603, p = 0.016) and with clinical DBT experience (AUC 0.789 vs 0.681, p = 0.042; and JAFROC FOM 0.764 vs 0.632, p = 0.031).

Addition of DBT to DM significantly improves radiologists' diagnostic performance whether or not they have prior DBT experience.

Key points

  • Adding DBT to DM increased the number of detected cancers
  • DBT + DM led to more accurate localization of breast cancers than DM
  • Addition of DBT improved radiologists' performance regardless of prior DBT experience
  • High-volume radiologists with different DBT experience levels performed similarly on DM + DBT.