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3D mammography detects 34 percent more breast cancers

By Allen Cone
3D mammography detects 34 percent more breast cancers
A tumor the size of 1 centimeter is detected in a 3D screening, called breast tomosynthesis, but is not detected in the traditional single-image method (right). Photo courtesy of Skane University Hospital

Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Three-dimensional mammography screening detected 34 percent more breast cancer tumors than the traditional process of a single image, according to a study.

Researchers at Lund University compared the two processes among 14,851 women aged 40-74 years at Skane University Hospital in Malmo, Sweden, from 2010 to 2015. The findings were published last week in The Lancet Oncology.

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The participants were screened using the two-dimensional single image and breast tomosynthesis, in which several low-dose X-ray images are taken of the breast from different angles and reconstructed by a computer to show thin layers of the breast.

"There is a need to improve screening for many women, and breast tomosynthesis is clearly the most appropriate method to transition to in breast cancer screening," Dr. Sophia Zackrisson, associate professor at Lund University and a radiologist at Skane University Hospital, said in a press release. "Breast tomosynthesis will be introduced, it's just a question of when and to what extent."

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Aside from better accuracy, Zackrisson noted they were able to reduce the compression of the breast during examination, "something that may encourage more women to participate in screening." In addition, there is the potential to reduce the radiation dose.

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But they did need to call back a few more women for additional examinations -- 3.6 percent -- compared with the 2.5 percent normally called back with traditional mammography.

"We needed to confirm that these women did not have cancer, as this method finds more structures in the breast in general," Zackrisson said. "So, there was an increased call-back rate."

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The researchers also noted there are fewer radiologists who can review the increased image material generated by 3D methods, though they envision automatic reviews of the images in the future.

"We have shown that we can achieve the same result with a simpler and perhaps even better method," says Sophia Zackrisson.

Researchers are now conducting a cost analysis of the 3D system.

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