Chest CT for Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Elise Desperito, Lawrence Schwartz, Kathleen M. Capaccione, Brian T. Collins, Sachin Jamabawalikar, Boyu Peng, Rebecca Patrizio, Mary M. Salvatore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We report the results of our retrospective analysis of the ability of standard chest CT scans to correctly diagnose cancer in the breast. Methods: Four hundred and fifty-three consecutive women with chest CT scans (contrast and non-contrast) preceding mammograms within one year comprise the study population. All chest CT images were reviewed by an experienced fellowship-trained chest radiologist and mammograms by an experienced fellowship-trained mammographer without the benefit of prior or ancillary studies; only four mammographic views were included for analysis. The size, location, and shape of breast masses were documented; on CT, the average Hounsfield units were measured. On both imaging modalities, the presence of lymphadenopathy, architectural distortion, skin thickening, and microcalcifications were recorded. Ultimately, the interpreting radiologist was asked to decide if a biopsy was indicated, and these recommendations were correlated with the patient’s outcome. Findings: Nineteen of four hundred and fifty-three patients had breast cancer at the time of the mammography. Breast masses were the most common finding on chest CT, leading to the recommendation for biopsy. Hounsfield units were the most important feature for discerning benign from malignant masses. CT sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of CT for breast cancer detection was 84.21%, 99.3%, and 98.68% compared to 78.95%, 93.78%, and 93.16% for four-view mammography. Chest CT scans with or without contrast had similar outcomes for specificity and accuracy, but sensitivity was slightly less without contrast. Chest CT alone, without the benefit of prior exams and patient recall, correctly diagnosed cancer with a p-value of <0.0001 compared to mammography with the same limitations. Conclusion: Chest CT accurately diagnosed breast cancer with few false positives and negatives and did so without the need for patient recall for additional imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1699
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • breast cancer
  • breast density
  • cancer screening
  • chest CT
  • mammography


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