Double reading of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging for breast cancer detection

Anna Rotili, Rubina Manuela Trimboli, Silvia Penco, Filippo Pesapane, Priyan Tantrige, Enrico Cassano, Francesco Sardanelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To estimate the performance of diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) for breast cancer detection. Methods: Consecutive breast magnetic resonance imaging examinations performed from January to September 2016 were retrospectively evaluated. Examinations performed before/after neoadjuvant therapy, lacking DWI sequences or reference standard were excluded; breasts after mastectomy were also excluded. Two experienced breast radiologists (R1, R2) independently evaluated only DWI. Final pathology or > 1-year follow-up served as reference standard. Mc Nemar, χ2, and κ statistics were applied. Results: Of 1,131 examinations, 672 (59.4%) lacked DWI sequence, 41 (3.6%) had no reference standard, 30 (2.7%) were performed before/after neoadjuvant therapy, and 10 (0.9%) had undergone bilateral mastectomy. Thus, 378 women aged 49 ± 11 years (mean ± standard deviation) were included, 51 (13%) with unilateral mastectomy, totaling 705 breasts. Per-breast cancer prevalence was 96/705 (13.6%). Per-breast sensitivity was 83/96 (87%, 95% confidence interval 78–93%) for both R1 and R2, 89/96 (93%, 86–97%) for double reading (DR) (p = 0.031); per-lesion DR sensitivity for cancers ≤ 10 mm was 22/31 (71%, 52–86%). Per-breast specificity was 562/609 (93%, 90–94%) for R1, 538/609 (88%, 86–91%) for R2, and 526/609 (86%¸ 83–89%) for DR (p < 0.001). Inter-observer agreement was substantial (κ = 0.736). Acquisition time varied from 3:00 to 6:22 min:s. Per-patient median interpretation time was 46 s (R1) and 51 s (R2). Conclusions: DR DWI showed a 93% sensitivity and 88% specificity, with 71% sensitivity for cancers ≤ 10 mm, pointing out a potential for DWI as stand-alone screening method.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging
  • Early detection of cancer
  • Observer variation
  • Sensitivity and specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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