The aim was to evaluate how the inter-screening interval affected the performance of screening by mammographic appearances. This was a Swedish retrospective screening cohort study with information on screening history and mammography features in two periods (1977–1985 and 1996–2010). The pre-clinical incidence and the mean sojourn time (MST) for small breast cancer allowing for sensitivity by mammographic appearances were estimated. The percentage of interval cancer against background incidence (I/E ratio) was used to assess the performance of mammography screening by different inter-screening intervals. The sensitivity-adjusted MSTs (in years) were heterogeneous with mammographic features, being longer for powdery and crushed stone-like calcifications (4.26, (95% CI, 3.50–5.26)) and stellate masses (3.76, (95% CI, 3.15–4.53)) but shorter for circular masses (2.65, (95% CI, 2.06–3.55)) in 1996–2010. The similar trends, albeit longer MSTs, were also noted in 1977–1985. The I/E ratios for the stellate type were 23% and 32% for biennial and triennial screening, respectively. The corresponding figures were 32% and 43% for the circular type and 21% and 29% for powdery and crushed stone-like calcifications, respectively. Mammography-featured progressions of small invasive breast cancer provides a new insight into personalized quality assurance, surveillance, treatment and therapy of early-detected breast cancer.
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