Study: 3D mammograms improve breast cancer detection

GE's tomosynthesis device--Courtesy of GE

Using digital 3D mammography technology, also called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), physicians may have a better shot at detecting breast cancer and reducing additional testing, a new study says.

In the study published by JAMA, researchers using data compiled from 13 U.S. hospitals found that when using DBT, 16 fewer women out of 1,000 tested had to undergo more screening. Also, women who had the digital 3D screening were more likely to get biopsies, but those biopsies had a higher chance of resulting in a diagnosis of cancer, Reuters reports. About one extra cancer was detected for every 1,000 DBT breast exams.

"We're detecting more invasive cancers while calling fewer women back for additional imaging," Dr. Sarah Friedewald, the study's lead author, told Reuters. "It's a more accurate exam."

The study was based on 81,187 breast exams without DBT versus 173,663 using the imaging device.

Tomosynthesis was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use in combination with traditional digital imagery. The result is a three-dimensional image that allows healthcare professionals to look at breast tissue from multiple angles. The device requires a modified mammography machine and uses almost twice the dose of radiation.

"I think this is enough to show that 3D (imaging) is better than 2D (imaging), but we didn't address the questions of who, when and how often patients should be getting mammograms," Friedewald told Reuters. "In terms of that debate, we didn't set out to answer those questions."

Hologic ($HOLX) and GE Healthcare ($GE) are leading producers of tomosynthesis devices in the U.S.

- see the JAMA report
- read the Reuters take

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