Open Access Open Badges Research article

Is computer aided detection (CAD) cost effective in screening mammography? A model based on the CADET II study

Carla Guerriero1*, Maureen GC Gillan2, John Cairns1, Matthew G Wallis3 and Fiona J Gilbert2

Author Affiliations

1 Health Service Research and Policy Department, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

2 Aberdeen Biomedical Imaging Centre, Lilian Sutton Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

3 Cambridge Breast Unit and Biomedical Research Institute, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-11

Published: 17 January 2011



Single reading with computer aided detection (CAD) is an alternative to double reading for detecting cancer in screening mammograms. The aim of this study is to investigate whether the use of a single reader with CAD is more cost-effective than double reading.


Based on data from the CADET II study, the cost-effectiveness of single reading with CAD versus double reading was measured in terms of cost per cancer detected. Cost (Pound (£), year 2007/08) of single reading with CAD versus double reading was estimated assuming a health and social service perspective and a 7 year time horizon. As the equipment cost varies according to the unit size a separate analysis was conducted for high, average and low volume screening units. One-way sensitivity analyses were performed by varying the reading time, equipment and assessment cost, recall rate and reader qualification.


CAD is cost increasing for all sizes of screening unit. The introduction of CAD is cost-increasing compared to double reading because the cost of CAD equipment, staff training and the higher assessment cost associated with CAD are greater than the saving in reading costs. The introduction of single reading with CAD, in place of double reading, would produce an additional cost of £227 and £253 per 1,000 women screened in high and average volume units respectively. In low volume screening units, the high cost of purchasing the equipment will results in an additional cost of £590 per 1,000 women screened.

One-way sensitivity analysis showed that the factors having the greatest effect on the cost-effectiveness of CAD with single reading compared with double reading were the reading time and the reader's professional qualification (radiologist versus advanced practitioner).


Without improvements in CAD effectiveness (e.g. a decrease in the recall rate) CAD is unlikely to be a cost effective alternative to double reading for mammography screening in UK. This study provides updated estimates of CAD costs in a full-field digital system and assessment cost for women who are re-called after initial screening. However, the model is highly sensitive to various parameters e.g. reading time, reader qualification, and equipment cost.