Skip to main content

09-01-2018 | Breast cancer | Article

Prospective blinded surveillance screening of Swedish women with increased hereditary risk of breast cancer

Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

Authors: Annelie Liljegren, Anna von Wachenfeldt, Edward Azavedo, Sandra Eloranta, Helene Grundström, Anne Kinhult Ståhlbom, Ann Sundbom, Per Sundén, Gunilla Svane, Dieter Ulitzsch, Brita Arver

Publisher: Springer US



To evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of different screening modalities in women with a family history of breast cancer.


Our blinded, prospective, comparative cohort analysis included three types of screening, mammography, ultrasound, and clinical breast examination once per year for 6 years. Eligible patients for this study were healthy women with ≥ 17% lifetime risk of breast cancer or with a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2.


A total of 632 women were screened between 2002 and 2012 (each for 6 years). During the study, 30 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, with 10 of these diagnoses occurring between screening visits, and six of the 10 diagnosed women were gene carriers. The clinical presentation for the women diagnosed with breast cancer was followed until 2017. No consistent patterns for the diagnostic capacity of the different screening modalities were found, although mammography showed low sensitivity, whereas ultrasound showed better sensitivity in three of the six rounds. The specificity was high in mammography and improved in ultrasound over time. Most importantly, clinical breast examination provided no additional information toward the diagnosis of breast cancer.


Neither mammography nor ultrasound performed yearly were sensitive enough as standalone modalities, although high specificity was confirmed. Our findings indicate that high risk (> 29% life time risk) individuals and gene carriers can be screened biannually, using the same protocol as used in mutation carriers. Our results also suggest that low-risk groups (< 20%) may continue to be referred to population mammography screening program, while clinical breast examination may be omitted in all risk groups, and could be optional in gene carriers.

Please log in to get access to this content

Related topics