If mammography is far from being an exact science, the interpretation of the x-rays by radiologists is more an amateur art form.
In a Yale University test of 10 radiologists and their ability to interpret mammograms, nearly 20 per cent of diagnoses differed, while recommendations for next stage treatment varied even more wildly. About 30 per cent of cancers were wrongly categorized.
One radiologist did not detect a cancer that was clearly visible, while another thought it was developing on the other breast from where it was actually located.
The group had been asked to examine 150 mammograms, which included 54 cases of benign lesions, and 27 cancers. In the “real life” examination of the x-rays in 1987, one cancer case was missed and seven others were misinterpreted.
The research paper concluded by calling for steps to be taken to improve the accuracy of interpretation.