Are 3-D Mammograms Better Than Traditional X-Rays for Breast Cancer Screening?

Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 01:33 AM

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Tomosynthesis or 3-D mammography is a new technique that increases the efficiency of traditional X-rays and screening tests in breast cancer detection.

How are 3-D mammograms taken?

3-D mammography, otherwise called tomosynthesis, is a screening test in which the patient is exposed to X-rays and a number of images of the breast are taken within roughly about four seconds for detection of breast cancer. The diagnosis procedure in 3-D mammograms is similar to that of 2-D mammograms. In fact, tomosynthesis does not replace 2-D X-ray imaging. It only augments the same, wherein an additional layer of imaging happens.
As a result, a series of images similar to a movie reel are taken within seconds and the radiologist is able to view them simultaneously in the monitoring screen to note if adequate images have been captured from multiple angles. This screening test lets them note any small cancer cell formations that may have gone unnoticed in the 2-D X-rays.
 
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What are the advantages of 3-D mammograms?
  Tomosynthesis offers the advantage of taking multiple 3-D images from various angles that helps screen and locate even small cancerous growths that are very vital for early breast cancer detection. Traditional 2-D X-rays are not as effective in capturing all of the cells in deeper tissue.Tomosynthesis aids in earlier detection of breast cancer since it offers better visualization in overlapping tissue.Size and location of abnormality are better captured in 3-D view, and that helps in better diagnosis.Tomosynthesis reduces the need for repeat mammography.

A recent study performed at the University of Pennsylvania proved that 3-D mammograms increase the efficiency of traditional 2-D X-rays and can offer more precise images for thorough screening of dense breasts and aids in early breast cancer detection. This study also quantified relative reduction in patient revisits to get repeat mammograms. From 10.4 percent, the recall rate was reduced to 8.78 percent when tomosynthesis was used for screening for early breast cancer detection. Tomosynthesis not only increased the clarity and visibility of the mammograms but also increased the cancer detection rate by 22 percent. Hence, in comparison with traditional 2-D X-rays and other cancer detection tests, tomosynthesis provides a more accurate picture of the breast tissues.

Do 3-D mammograms pose the threat of greater exposure to radiation?

To procure 3-D images of the breast, a slightly higher amount of radiation is required than in the case of a regular 2-D X-ray procedure. However, this exposure level is within the FDA approved exposure limit. In addition, tomosynthesis provides more clarity and completeness to images from multiple angles and greatly reduces the need for repeat mammograms. It actually reduces repeated exposure to X-rays that most women may face.

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