Palpable breast abnormalities in women under age 40

Michelle V. Lee, Hillary L. Shaw, Tingying Chi, Hilary A. Brazeal, Susan O. Holley, Catherine M. Appleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Although the prevalence of malignancy in average risk women under age 40 presenting with a palpable breast abnormality is low, the management of benign-appearing palpable abnormalities remains controversial. This study assesses the imaging evaluation, subsequent management, and outcomes of women under age 40 presenting with a palpable area of concern. This study also evaluates the costs, utility, and outcomes of BI-RADS 3 assessment in this patient population. A single institution retrospective case review from July 2010 through June 2013 identified women under age 40 presenting with a new palpable breast abnormality. Diagnostic imaging evaluation was performed. BI-RADS assessments and recommendations were recorded prospectively. Outcome was determined by tissue diagnosis, 2 years of surveillance, or search of the hospital tumor registry. Performance measures were calculated. Among 1440 cases, 1052 were initially assessed as BI-RADS 1 or 2 (73.1%), 184 as BI-RADS 3 (12.8%), 182 as BI-RADS 4 (12.6%), and 22 as BI-RADS 5 (1.5%). In all, 30 breast malignancies were diagnosed (cancer yield 2.1%). All 30 cancers were initially categorized as BI-RADS 4 or 5. No BI-RADS 1, 2, or 3 findings proved malignant. The imaging evaluation sensitivity was 100%, specificity was 87.7%, and accuracy was 87.9%. The negative predictive value was 100% and the positive predictive value was 14.7%. Average risk women under age 40 presenting with a palpable abnormality have a low prevalence of breast cancer. Imaging evaluation has a high sensitivity and negative predictive value, thereby allowing for confident characterization and appropriate management recommendations. For palpable solid masses with benign imaging features in women under age 40, short-term interval follow-up with subsequent periodic imaging or clinical examination for a total of 2 years is a cost-effective and safe alternative to biopsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798-805
Number of pages8
JournalBreast Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • BI-RADS 3
  • breast cancer
  • palpable abnormality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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