New tomosynthesis technology improves early detection and reduces unnecessary biopsies
Digital breast tomosynthesis, the latest breakthrough in mammography, is a three- dimensional x-ray that provides a clearer, more accurate view of the breast, improving breast cancer detection and reducing the number of false positives and the anxiety that comes with them.
“It’s such a useful tool,” BMH radiologist Dr. Phillip Blalock said. “It affords us a better look at the breast tissue, helping us find smaller cancers at earlier stages when they’re most treatable.”
Breast tomosynthesis is performed at the same time as a normal screening mammogram using the same digital detector. During the 3-D portion of the exam, the c-arm of the mammography machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of images that a computer forms into a three-dimensional picture.
“After reviewing the technology, we saw the huge potential it has and were excited we may be able to reduce unneeded procedures,” said Daniel Mock, Beaufort Memorial’s senior director of imaging services. “For example, a skin fold that looks suspicious on traditional mammography can easily be seen on the 3-D tomography image, saving a woman from further diagnostic testing.”
With 3-D imaging, radiologists are able to examine the breast tissue one layer at a time. Fine details are clearly visible, allowing doctors to more effectively pinpoint the size, shape and location of any abnormalities. Tomosynthesis is especially beneficial for women with dense breast tissue, which can mask cancers or lead to false positives.
While two-dimensional mammograms are still considered the gold standard for early detection, clinical trials are beginning to demonstrate the benefits of tomosynthesis.
According to a study published last spring in Lancet Oncology, 50 percent more cancers are found using 3-D X-rays combined with conventional 2-D mammography than with the traditional test alone.
Italian and Australian researchers reported that the combination of the 2-D and 3-D mammograms identified 8.1 cancers per 1,000 screenings, compared with 5.3 per 1,000 using just conventional mammograms — an increase in the cancer detection rate of 53 percent.
Although the radiation dose of the 2-D and 3-D combination is about double that of a conventional screening, it is still below the FDA-regulated limit. For some women, the radiation dose may not necessarily increase with a 3-D mammogram because the exam may help them avoid the radiation from additional diagnostic scans.
At the Women’s Imaging Center, a dedicated radiologist is on site to examine both 3-D and 2-D mammograms, providing patients with the results before they leave the center.
A Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, the Woman’s Imaging Center also offers digital diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, bone density scans and stereotactic breast biopsy in a spa-like setting designed with the healing arts in mind. To make an appointment for tomosynthesis or a traditional screening mammogram, call 843-522-5015.