Digital breast tomosynthesis provides clearer, more accurate view

Published on June 28, 2016

UofL Physicians is offering a new, advanced type of mammogram that can potentially provide a clearer, more accurate view of the breast.

“For many patients, having a mammogram causes anxiety and worries,” Lane Roland, M.D., a radiologist with UofL Physicians – Radiology, said. Dr. Roland specializes in breast imaging and intervention, and is a breast imaging radiologist. 

Research in large populations on digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), also known as 3D mammography or “Tomo,” has been shown to increase cancer detection rates (particularly for invasive cancers) up to 15 percent, and reduce recall rates up to 30 percent compared with standard 2D digital mammography alone. Reduced call back rates may lessen concern for patients. 

Tomosynthesis, which UofL Physicians provides at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center Breast Care Center, acquires images of the compressed breast at multiple angles during a short scan. The individual images are then reconstructed into a series of thin, high-resolution slices which can help eliminate detection challenges associated with overlapping structures in the breast.  

“The accuracy of this test has multifaceted benefits,” Dr. Roland explained. “Whether we are telling a patient they don’t have cancer, or sharing more precise images with a surgeon, clearer images have great advantages for our patients and the work we do.”

This research on tomosynthesis is promising. At this time, the recommendations for breast cancer screening apply to conventional 2D mammography. At UofL Physicians, standard 2D digital mammography is performed on all women, including those undergoing the additional tomosynthesis views. 

While the more detailed imaging offered by tomosynthesis can benefit every woman, it has shown to be of most benefit for patients with dense breast tissue. Roughly half of women across all ages have dense breasts.  

Currently, patients are randomized in terms of who is offered the additional option of tomosynthesis, but a patient can request the additional 3D images.  

The UofL Physicians breast cancer team at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center recommends all average risk women begin annual screening mammography at age 40. Women at higher risk based on family or personal risk factors may need earlier or additional screening. Early breast cancer has no signs or symptoms, and screening mammography can help detect small, early breast cancer which can lead to improved long-term survival. 

For an appointment at the Breast Imaging Center at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, call 562-4361 and choose Option 1.