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Estimating Cancer Screening Sensitivity and Specificity Using Healthcare Utilization Data: Defining the Accuracy Assessment Interval

The effectiveness and efficiency of cancer screening in real-world settings depend on many factors, including test sensitivity and specificity. Outside of select experimental studies, not everyone receives a gold standard test that can serve as a comparator in estimating screening test accuracy. Thus, many studies of screening test accuracy use the passage of time to infer whether or not cancer was present at the time of the screening test, particularly for patients with a negative screening test. We define the accuracy assessment interval as the period of time after a screening test that is used to estimate the test’s accuracy. We describe how the length of this interval may bias sensitivity and specificity estimates. We call for future research to quantify bias and uncertainty in accuracy estimates and to provide guidance on setting accuracy assessment interval lengths for different cancers and screening modalities.

Authors: Chubak, Jessica; Burnett-Hartman, Andrea N; Barlow, William E; Corley, Douglas A; Croswell, Jennifer M; Neslund-Dudas, Christine; Vachani, Anil; Silver, Michelle I; Tiro, Jasmin A; Kamineni, Aruna

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2022 Aug 02;31(8):1517-1520.

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