A new breast imaging technology that creates 3-D pictures of breast tissue can make a big difference for women getting screened for cancer.
Three-dimensional breast imaging, also called tomosynthesis, helps doctors find more cancers at smaller and earlier stages, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It also decreases the number callbacks for further imaging — which, for patients, is inconvenient at best and anxiety-causing at worst as they wait for results.
“The stress of being called back by an imaging center is huge, because the first thought someone has is ‘I might have cancer,’” said Lesley Kibel, manager of the Kupferle Breast Center at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.
The study’s findings aren’t surprising to Kibel, who says they reflect what the breast center staff sees daily. There have been cases where cancer has been undetectable in a traditional 2-D image, but with 3-D it jumps right out at you, she said.
“The 3-D digital technology gives us a clearer picture of the breast tissue,” said Dr. Katherine Hall, diagnostic radiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. “This aids in locating cancerous cells that can remain unseen in a 2-D image, allowing for earlier detection and treatment.”
Standard mammography is a two-dimensional X-ray of the breast, relying on the contrast of tumors and adjacent normal breast tissue. In women with dense breast tissue, deadly tumors can hide in the shadows of overlapping tissue. The 3-D mammography technology takes pictures of the breast in layers, generating 15 discrete images of the breast from different angles. The computer system uses these images to create a tomogram, showing the tissue as three-dimensional layers.
Benefits of 3D mammography include:
- Clearer view through dense breast tissue in order to locate cancers deep inside the breast;
- Better accuracy in determining size, shape and location of abnormalities;
- Improved ability to distinguish harmless abnormalities from real tumors, leading to fewer callbacks and less anxiety for women; and
- Earlier detection, since thin layers of tissue are shown separately and suspicious
“For our high-risk patients and women with dense breast tissue, breast tomosynthesis is an improvement over digital mammography,” said Dr. Robin Skrine, medical director of the breast health program at Texas Health Fort Worth. “A few years ago, digital mammography was the latest and greatest. We thought those images were really clear and gave us a lot of information. The images we get from 3-D mammography go far beyond that.”
Texas Health hospitals in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Southwest Fort Worth offer advanced 3-D technology. For more information about breast imaging services at Texas Health hospitals, visit TexasHealth.org/breast-care.