Addition of ultrasound to mammography in the case of dense breast tissue: systematic review and meta-analysis

Matejka Rebolj, Valentina Assi, Adam Brentnall, Dharmishta Parmar, Stephen W Duffy

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BACKGROUND: Mammography is less effective in detecting cancer in dense than in fatty breasts.

METHODS: We undertook a systematic search in PubMed to identify studies on women with dense breasts who underwent screening with mammography supplemented with ultrasound. A meta-analysis was undertaken on the proportion of cancers detected only by ultrasound, out of all screen-detected cancers, and the proportion of women with negative mammography who were referred for assessment following ultrasound screening.

RESULTS: Twenty-nine studies satisfied our inclusion criteria. The proportion of total cancers detected only by ultrasound was 0.29 (95% CI: 0.27-0.31), consistent with an approximately 40% increase in the detection of cancers compared to mammography. In the studied populations, this translated into an additional 3.8 (95% CI: 3.4-4.2) screen-detected cases per 1000 mammography-negative women. About 13% (32/248) of cancers were in situ from 17 studies with information on this subgroup. Ultrasound approximately doubled the referral for assessment in three studies with these data.

CONCLUSIONS: Studies have consistently shown an increased detection of breast cancer by supplementary ultrasound screening. An inclusion of supplementary ultrasound into routine screening will need to consider the availability of ultrasound and diagnostic assessment capacities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Early online date8 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 May 2018


  • Journal Article


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