Study designs of evaluations included in the review
Systematic reviews with meta-analysis, randomised trials, cohort studies, cost-effectiveness studies, case-control studies, before-and-after studies, and cross-sectional descriptive and ecological studies were eligible for inclusion. The studies actually included in the review were randomised trials, cohort studies, case-control studies and other cross-sectional studies. Studies were excluded if they were published before January 1996 or after October 1998, had a participation rate lower than 50%, had a sample size less than 25, or did not clearly describe their methods or results.
Specific interventions included in the review
Studies were eligible for inclusion in the review if they assessed breast cancer screening and diagnosis techniques in primary care. Studies were included on the triple diagnostic test for breast cancer and its individual components (clinical examination, fine-needle aspiration and mammography), ultrasound, core biopsy and population-based breast cancer screening.
Reference standard test against which the new test was compared
The authors did not specify any inclusion criteria relating to the diagnostic reference standard. Some of the studies included in the review used surgery and long-term follow-up to assess the presence of breast cancer and survival rates.
Participants included in the review
The authors did not specify any inclusion criteria relating to the participants. Details of each study sample were tabulated in the report.
Outcomes assessed in the review
The authors did not specify any outcomes that the studies had to assess in order to be eligible for inclusion. The main outcomes included in the review were sensitivity, specificity, and overall and disease-free survival.
How were decisions on the relevance of primary studies made?
The authors did not state how the papers were selected for the review, or how many reviewers performed the selection.