We determined whether it is safe to avoid mammograms in a group of symptomatic women with a non-suspicious history and clinical examination.PATIENTS AND METHODS
Symptomatic women aged 35 years or over newly referred to a rapid-diagnosis breast clinic underwent mammography on arrival in the clinic. A breast radiologist reported on the mammograms. An experienced clinician who was unaware of the mammogram findings examined patients and decided whether a mammogram was indicated or not. If not, a management plan was formulated. Mammogram findings were then provided to the clinician and any change to the original management plan as a result of mammography was recorded.RESULTS
In two-thirds (67%) of 218 patients, the clinician felt a mammogram was indicated. Half (46%) of these mammograms showed an abnormality; of these abnormal mammograms, 41% were breast cancer. Among the third (n = 71) of mammograms felt not to be indicated, 3 showed abnormalities of which 2 were breast cancer. One cancer was not suspected clinically or mam-mographically but was diagnosed on cyto/histopathological assessment.CONCLUSIONS
A significant proportion of patients attending a symptomatic breast clinic have a non-suspicious history and normal clinical findings on examination. However, even in this group avoiding mammograms risks missing clinically occult breast cancers. It would appear sensible to offer mammograms to all symptomatic women over 35 years of age.