Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Is Called To Win Battle With Breast Cancer

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Tomosynthesis or digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), also known as 3D mammography, is a revolutionary screening and diagnostic tool designed for early detection of breast cancer that can be done in conjunction with a traditional 2D digital mammogram.

DBT can provide a higher diagnostic accuracy compared to conventional mammography. The procedure is nearly identical to a routine mammogram, except that in mammography the machine is stationary, while in tomosynthesis it moves in an arc over the breasts, taking images from various angles. The point is to improve doctors’ ability to spot small tumors and reduce false scares.  Besides, in DBT, like conventional mammography, compression is used to improve image quality and decreases radiation dose. Because the data acquired are very high resolution (85 – 160 micron typical), much higher than CT, DBT is unable to offer the narrow slice widths that CT offers (typically 1-1.5 mm). However, the higher resolution detectors permit very high in-plane resolution, even if the Z-axis resolution is less. While standard 2D mammography produces a flat image, tomosynthesis creates a three-dimensional rendering of the breast which results in greater accuracy, earlier breast cancer detection and a decrease in biopsies and recall rates. 

In the United States, 3D mammography has been available since 2011. But last year, the agency approved a 3D system that can be used alone. The verdict is still out on the long-term worth of this new technology. The new results are promising but not definitive. Tomosynthesis has not been around long enough to determine whether it saves lives or misses tumors.

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