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There is a lack of direct evidence on the effectiveness of double reading of breast screening mammograms within the context of national screening programmes even though about half of the countries that use mammography screening have implemented double reading. A systematic review was conducted to compare double reading with single reading of mammograms for screening accuracy, patient outcomes and costs. We searched an extensive range of electronic databases, bibliographies of studies were scanned and experts were contacted. Data extraction and quality assessment was undertaken independently by two reviewers. Estimates of the diagnostic accuracy were calculated for those studies with follow-up to identify interval cancers. Only 10 cohort studies met the inclusion criteria with reported extractable data on the effectiveness of double compared to single reading. The mix of methodologies meant that few conclusions could be drawn about the effect of double reading independent of number of views, or effects on size and type of tumours detected. Overall, double reading increases the cancer detection rate by 3-11 per 10,000 women screened and has a double impact on recall rates depending on the recall policy used. The benefit could be mainly in the detection of small cancers, and could be greatest where two readers have different strengths and weaknesses, or where readers are less experienced. Double reading can improve accuracy as compared with single reading. In particular, double reading by consensus or arbitration achieves an increase in cancer detection rate together with a reduction in the rate of women recalled for assessment. Further research should quantify the relative benefit from double reading according to recall policy and number of mammographic views, and estimate the impact on patient outcome.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





455 - 463