BACKGROUND: The Verona population-based breast cancer (BC) screening program provides biennial mammography to women aged 50-69 years. Based on emerging evidence of enhanced detection, the program transitioned to digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) screening.
METHODS: This is a prospective pilot evaluation of DBT with synthesised 2D mammography screening implemented during April 2015-March 2017; the rate and characteristics of cancers detected at DBT screening were compared with those detected at the preceding digital mammography (DM) screening round (April 2013-March 2015) in the same screening program. Distribution of imaging and tumour characteristics were compared.
RESULTS: Amongst 34,071 women screened in the Verona DBT pilot, 315 BCs were detected; 153 BCs were detected amongst 29,360 women in the DM screening round. Estimated CDRs were 9.2/1000 (95% CI 8.3-10.3) DBT screens versus 5.2/1000 (95% CI 4.4-6.1) DM screens, P < 0.001. Statistically significant differences were found in the distribution of whether recall by one/both screen readers (more BCs recalled by both readers at DBT than DM); whether detected on one/two views (higher proportion detected on only one view at DBT than DM); type of radiological lesions; tumour stage, pT and histological categories (lower proportion of DCIS/pTis, higher proportions of pT1a and pT1b, and higher proportion of invasive cancers of special types, at DBT than DM); and tumour grade (higher proportion of grade I at DBT than DM). There were no differences in distributions of nodal and hormone receptor (ER/PR) status.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings provide early insights into the extent that transitioning to DBT screening may modify the characteristics of screen-detected breast cancer to inform discussion regarding pros and cons of DBT screening; although our data provide some reassurance that DBT does not increase the proportion of screen-detected DCIS, they highlight mixed findings on comparative tumour characteristics, suggesting a potential for enhancing screening benefit and possibly also over-diagnosis from DBT screening.