What should be done about interval breast cancers?

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6974.203 (Published 28 January 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:203
  1. S Field,
  2. MJ Michell,
  3. MGW Wallis,
  4. ARM Wilson
  1. Consultant radiologist Kent and Canterbury Hospitals NHS Trust, Canterbury CT1 3NG
  2. Consultant radiologist King's Healthcare NHS Trust, London SE5 9RS
  3. Director Breast Screening Unit, Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, Coventry CV1 4FH
  4. Director Breast Screening Training Centre, City Hospital NHS Trust, Nottingham NG5 1PB
  5. Dr Field is the radiology representative on the Department of Health's advisory committee for breast cancer screening. Dr Michell is chairman and Drs Wallis and Wilson are regional representatives on the National Breast Screening Radiology Quality Assurance Committee.

    Two view mammography and possibly a shorter screening interval

    The paper by Woodman and colleagues in this week's journal contains the first published data from the NHS breast screening programme on cancers diagnosed in the three years after a negative screen (“interval cancers”) (p 224).1 It reports 15.8 interval cancers per 10000 women screened in the North West region in the 24 months after screening, which is higher than the target that was set for Britain. Preliminary data from 46 screening centres, collected by the National Breast Screening Radiology Quality Assurance Committee, are very similar, suggesting that the North West region is representative of the United Kingdom as a whole.

    Comparing rates of interval cancer with those reported in the literature is difficult because different groups have reported the data using different methods and the populations studied have different age compositions. The rates reported today, however, are higher than the rate of 9.4/10000 in the Swedish two county trial2 and are very similar to the rates reported from the Nijmegen (15.7/10000)3 and Stockholm (19.2/10000) trials.4 In Nijmegen in the eight successive screening rounds …

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