Grading variation in 2,934 patients with ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast: The effect of laboratory: The pathologist-specific feedback reports

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BACKGROUND: Histologic grade of ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast (DCIS) may become the single biomarker that decides whether patients will be treated. Yet, evidence shows that grading variation in daily practice is substantial. To facilitate quality improvement, feedback reports, in which laboratory-specific case-mix adjusted proportions per grade were benchmarked against other laboratories, were sent to the individual laboratories by March 1, 2018. One year later, the effect of these feedback reports on inter-laboratory variation was studied.

METHODS: Synoptic pathology reports of all pure DCIS resection specimens between March 1, 2017 and March 1, 2019 were retrieved from PALGA (the nationwide Dutch pathology registry). Laboratory-specific proportions per grade were compared to the overall proportion in the year before and after feedback. The absolute deviation for all three grades at once, represented by the overall deviation score (ODS), was calculated as the sum of deviations from the grade-specific overall proportions. Case-mix adjusted, laboratory-specific odds ratios (ORs) for high- (grade III) versus low-grade (grade I-II) DCIS were obtained by multivariable logistic regression.

RESULTS: Overall, 2954 DCIS reports from 31 laboratories were included. After feedback, the range between laboratories decreased by 22 and 6.5% for grades II and III, while an increase of 6.2% was observed for grade I. Both the mean ODS (27.2 to 24.1%) and maximum ODS (87.7 to 59.6%) decreased considerably. However, the range of case-mix adjusted ORs remained fairly stable and substantial (0.39 (95% CI: 0.18-0.86) to 3.69 (95% CI: 1.30-10.51)).

CONCLUSION: A promising decrease in grading variation was observed after laboratory-specific feedback for DCIS grades II-III, while this was not observed for DCIS grade I. Overall, grading variation remained substantial which needs to be addressed considering its clinical implications. Nationwide consensus on a classification, and training of (expert breast) pathologists, for example by e-learning, may help to further improve grading standardization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number52
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalDiagnostic Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020


  • daily pathology practice
  • DCIS
  • ductal carcinoma in situ
  • histologic grad
  • patient management
  • laboratory-specific feedback


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