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The Relevance of Reported Symptoms in a Breast Screening Programme

Clinical Radiology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1053/crad.2001.0910
  • Breast Neoplasm
  • Mammographic Screening
  • Symptoms
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract AIM: Although the National Health Service (NHS) Breast Screening Programme is aimed at asymptomatic women, inevitably patients attending screening report symptoms. The study aim was to assess the usefulness of recall based on clinical symptoms. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Information on breast symptoms is recorded at screening and radiologists can make recall decisions based on mammography and symptom history. We identified 1394 women with significant symptoms, between 1991 and 1996. The majority (54%) complained of a lump, 21% had breast distortion, 18% breast pain alone and 6% reported nipple discharge. RESULTS: Of the 1394 women, 262 were recalled because of mammographic suspicion and of these, 45% had breast cancer. The other 1132 women had symptoms and benign mammograms and 44% of these were recalled. Seven breast cancers were diagnosed; all had complained of a breast lump. In two the cancer would have been seen on two-view mammography. Of 638 not recalled, five women went on to develop an interval cancer. CONCLUSION: The results indicate that collecting details on symptoms is useful given the high rate of breast cancer in those with mammographic abnormality. When mammography is benign, however, the low rate of cancer detection means recall should be selective based on only the most relevant symptoms. Williams, R. S. et al. (2002). Clinical Radiology 57, 725–729.

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