July 18, 2014
New tomosynthesis technology improves early
detection and reduces unnecessary biopsies
BEAUFORT, SC – A new advanced
imaging technology is now available at Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Women’s
Digital breast tomosynthesis, the
latest breakthrough in mammography, is a three- dimensional x-ray that provides
a clearer, more accurate view of the breast, improving breast cancer detection
and reducing the number of false positives and the anxiety that comes with them.
“It’s such a useful tool,” BMH radiologist Dr. Phillip Blalock said. “It
affords us a better look at the breast tissue, helping us find smaller cancers
at earlier stages when they’re most treatable.”
Breast tomosynthesis is performed at
the same time as a normal screening mammogram using the same digital detector. During
the 3-D portion of the exam, the c-arm of the mammography machine makes a quick
arc over the breast, taking a series of images that a computer forms into a
“After reviewing the technology, we
saw the huge potential it has and were excited we may be able to reduce
unneeded procedures,” said Daniel Mock, Beaufort Memorial’s senior
director of imaging services. “For example, a skin fold that looks suspicious
on traditional mammography can easily be seen on the 3-D tomography image, saving
a woman from further diagnostic testing.”
With 3-D imaging, radiologists are
able to examine the breast tissue one layer at a time. Fine details are clearly
visible, allowing doctors to more effectively pinpoint the size, shape and
location of any abnormalities. Tomosynthesis is especially beneficial for women
with dense breast tissue, which can mask cancers or lead to false positives.
While two-dimensional mammograms are still considered the gold standard
for early detection, clinical trials are beginning to demonstrate the benefits
According to a study published last
spring in Lancet Oncology, 50 percent more cancers are found using 3-D x-rays combined
with conventional 2-D mammography than with the traditional test alone.
Italian and Australian researchers reported
that the combination of the 2-D and 3-D mammograms identified 8.1 cancers per
1,000 screenings, compared with 5.3 per 1,000 using just conventional
mammograms—an increase in the cancer detection rate of 53 percent.
A 2013 Yale University study also found
tomosynthesis reduces overall recall rates in breast cancer screening by 30
percent, with even greater reductions for women with dense breasts and those
younger than 50.
Although the radiation dose of the
2-D and 3-D combination is about double that of a conventional screening, it is
still below the FDA-regulated limit. For some women, the radiation dose may not
necessarily increase with a 3-D mammogram because the exam may help them avoid
the radiation from additional diagnostic scans.
women can benefit from having tomosynthesis, but it’s especially helpful for patients who have dense breast tissue, are considered high risk, need a
diagnostic screening or are having their first mammogram.
At the Women’s Imaging Center, a dedicated
radiologist is on site to examine both 3-D and 2-D mammograms, providing
patients with the results before they leave the center. Same-day mammography
results are also available at
Bluffton Medical Services.
Imaging Center of Excellence, the Woman’s Imaging Center also offers digital
diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, bone density scans and stereotactic breast
biopsy in a spa-like setting designed with the healing arts in mind. To make an
appointment for tomosynthesis or a traditional screening mammogram, call (843)