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3-Dimensional Mammography Improves Accuracy in Breast Cancer Screening

The use of 3D (3-dimensional) images in mammography appears to significantly improve the accuracy of breast cancer detection compared to the conventional 2D (2-dimensional) methods. These results were recently published in The Lancet Oncology.

Breast cancer continues to be the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States. Fortunately, if breast cancer is found in early stages, prior to spread from its site of origin, cure rates remain high with standard therapies.

Therefore, optimal screening for breast cancer to catch it in its earliest stages remains imperative to improving survival rates of the disease.

The integration of advancing technology into screening and treatment of cancer provides patients with improved tools in which to fight the disease. For example, conventional mammography used for the screening of breast cancer includes the use of 2D-imaging. Now, technology exists which utilizes 3D-imaging for mammography, potentially aiding in overcoming the limitations of 2D- technology.

Since the 3D imaging systems can be costly and require training of radiologists to accurately read the images, researchers continue to compare their overall accuracy to that of the conventional 2D systems in an attempt to help quantify its improvement in readings.

Researchers from Australia and Italy recently conducted a clinical trial to identify potential accuracy with the addition of 3D-imaging to 2D-imaging in mammography. The trial included nearly 7,300 women 48 years or older who underwent breast cancer screening in Italy from 2011-2012. Patients first underwent 2D-imaging mammography and then underwent the addition of 3D-imaging.

The addition of 3D-imaging detected a significantly greater number of cancers than 2D-imaging only.
The addition of 3D-imaging significantly reduced the number of false-positives compared with 2D-imaging only. False-positives are areas found on scans that look cancerous to radiologists which require subsequent biopsies (removal of tissue). False-positives are associated with increased anxiety, medical costs and pain from the procedure.
The researchers concluded that “Integrated 2D and 3D mammography improves breast-cancer detection and has the potential to reduce false positive recalls. Randomised controlled trials are needed to compare integrated 2D and 3D mammography with 2D mammography for breast cancer screening.”

Reference: Ciatto S, Houssami N, Bernardi D, et al. Integration of 3D digital mammography with tomosynthesis for population breast-cancer screening (STORM): a prospective comparison study. Lancet Oncology. Early Online Publication, 25 April 2013. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70134-7.