Some Radiologists Overestimate Mammography Skills

September 6, 2012

Radiologists have a higher level of confidence in their ability to interpret mammograms than their performance may indicate.

Radiologists have a higher level of confidence in their ability to interpret mammograms than their performance may indicate, said researchers in a study in the September issue ofAmerican Journal of Roentgenology.

The researchers in 2005 and 2006 mailed surveys to radiologists at six Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium registries; 174 radiologists completed and returned the survey. They were asked to estimate their false-positive and cancer detection rates, and positive predictive value biopsy recommendation (PPV2) for screening mammography. The estimates were compared with their actual findings.

Most radiologists accurately estimated their cancer detection and recall rates: 74 percent and 78 percent, respectively. But fewer radiologists accurately estimated their false-positive rate (19 percent) and PPV2 (26 percent), researchers said.

According to the study:

• 43 percent of the radiologists reported recall rates that were similar to their actual rates, and 31 percent reported lower rates.

• 52 percent reported similar false-positive rates and 33 percent reported lower rates.

• 72 percent reported each similar cancer detection rates and PPV2 rates, but 23 percent reported higher cancer detection rates, while 38 percent reported higher PPV2 rates.

“Estimation accuracy did not differ by radiologist characteristics, except that radiologists who interpreted 1,000 or fewer mammograms annually were less accurate at estimating their recall rates,” the authors added.