Breast screening technologists: does real-life case volume affect performance?

In the UK fewer radiologists are now specialising in breast cancer screening. Consequently, a number of technologists have been specially trained to read mammograms so as to double-read with existing radiologists. Each year the majority of these film-readers examine a set of difficult cases as a means of self-assessing their skills. We investigated whether the technologists performed as well as breast-screening radiologists on this difficult test set. We also investigated technologists’ performance over a number of years to compare the performance of those technologists who have read a greater number of breast screening films and those who have had less experience. Finally, we investigated real-life experience and performance on the scheme by comparing; volume of cases read, experience, and technologists’ performance over time versus radiologists’ performance. Data for approximately 250 breast screening Radiologists and 80 specially trained technologists over three years for six sets of 60 difficult recent screening cases were examined. Overall, those technologists who have not read the same volume of cases as radiologists did not perform as well on this particular task. Although when the group was fractionated by volume of cases read in real-life and the number of years reading cases, then the technologists performed at a level similar to the radiologists.