Abraham L, Geller BM, Yankaskas BC, Bowles EJA, Karliner LS, Taplin SH, Miglioretti DL. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 December; 118(3): 583–592. doi: 10.1007/s10549-009-0375-4.


This study estimated the sensitivity and specificity of self-reported breast cancer and their associations with patient factors and pathologic findings using data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.

We included 24,631 women with and 463,804 women without a prior diagnosis of breast cancer who completed a questionnaire (including breast cancer history) at participating U.S. mammography facilities between 1996 and 2006. We determined “true” cancer status using cancer registries and pathology databases. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to examine associations with patient factors and pathologic findings.

Sensitivity of self-reported breast cancer was higher for women with invasive cancer (96.9%) than for those with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) (90.2%). Specificity was high overall (99.7%) but much lower for women with a history of lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) (65.0%). In multivariable models, women reporting older ages, a nonwhite race/ethnicity, or less education had lower sensitivities and specificities. Sensitivity was reduced when there was evidence of prior DCIS, especially when this diagnosis had been made more than 2 years before questionnaire completion. Women reporting a family history of breast cancer had higher sensitivity. Evidence of prior LCIS was associated with lower specificity.

The accuracy of self-reported breast cancer depends on the respondent’s characteristics and prior diagnoses. Accuracy is lower among nonwhite women and women reporting less education. There appears to be uncertainty surrounding breast findings such as DCIS and LCIS. These results have important implications for research relying on self-report and for patient communication and care.