Background Delay in detection of breast cancer may worsen tumour characteristics, with progression of tumour size and a higher risk of metastatic lymph nodes. The purpose of this study was to investigate delayed breast cancer diagnosis after repeated recall for the same mammographic abnormality at screening. Methods This was a retrospective study performed in two cohorts of women enrolled in a mammography screening programme in the Netherlands. All women aged 50-75 who underwent biennial screening mammography either between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 2006 (cohort 1) or between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2016 (cohort 2) were included. Results The cohorts showed no difference in proportions of women with delayed breast cancer diagnosis of at least 2 years (2.2% versus 2.8%, P = 0.29). Most delays were caused by incorrect BI-RADS classifications after recall (74.2%). An increase in mean tumour size was seen when comparing sizes at initial false-negative recall and at diagnosis of breast cancer (P <0.001). Conclusions The proportion of women with a long delay in breast cancer confirmation following repeated recall at screening mammography has not decreased during 20 years of screening. These delays lead to larger tumour size at detection and may negatively influence prognosis.
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