Tomosynthesis detects 40% more breast cancers than traditional mammography does, according to a new study. This is the first large-scale study to compare the screening method with regular mammograms. The 3D X-ray technique is also more comfortable for women, as breast compression is halved. A total of 7 500 women aged 40-74 took part in the first half of the study, which formed the basis for the findings published in the journal European Radiology.
Breast tomosynthesis is a three-dimensional X-ray technique that makes it easier to detect tumours in breast tissue. The technique works on the same principle as tomography. This means that X-ray images of the breast are acquired from different angles, which can then show multiple thin layers of the breast. This is compared with a traditional mammography, where all the breast tissue is reproduced in a single image, which can hinder the early detection of tumours.
The new technique also reduces discomfort and pain, because the breast does not have to be compressed as firmly as in the current examination technique. This could lead to higher levels of participation in future screening programmes.
Among the other advantages are lower radiation doses than in traditional mammography, and the ready availability of the equipment on the market, which would facilitate a transition.
However, there are a few challenges remaining before the method can be introduced on a large scale. As with other screening methods, there is a risk of overdiagnosis (in mammography screening, the figure is 10-20 per cent). The researchers do not know what that number is for tomosynthesis, and further studies are needed to investigate the rate of overdiagnosis with tomosynthesis.
The study found that there was an increase in recall rates, meaning more healthy women with benign lesions were recalled for further testing. This is a drawback in screening, as it can cause unnecessary psychological stress.
While breast tomosynthesis is a somewhat more expensive technique, the researchers believe that we will see a large-scale introduction of the technique within five to ten years.
Based on material originally posted by Lund University.