What is Computed Tomography
This new type of mammography produces a 3-D image of the breast, providing doctors with a clearer view through overlapping breast tissue. The result is a more detailed picture, making breast abnormalities easier to see, even in dense tissue.
Tomosynthesis improves the radiologists' ability to detect potential breast cancers by helping to pinpoint the size, shape and location of abnormalities. This helps the radiologist distinguish harmless structures from tumors, leading to fewer false positives, fewer call-backs and less anxiety for women.
Tomosynthesis builds upon the success of digital mammography and was recently shown to improve rate of cancer detection and reduce the number of unnecessary call-backs in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, June 2014. Experts believe that this method will soon become the gold standard in breast cancer screening and detection. It is now used as a complement to conventional 2-D mammography for patients receiving a screening mammogram.
Advanced 3-D Mammography Can Lead To Easier, Earlier Detection of Breast Cancer
Conventional mammography images the entire breast in one exposure, which can result in abnormalities remaining hidden by overlapping tissue. Tomosynthesis, like a computed tomography (CT) scan, takes images from multiple angles and uses computer processing to build these “slices” into a three-dimensional image that a radiologist can manipulate, examining each slice individually for a more thorough examination. The resulting advantages include:
- Fewer callbacks: Tomosynthesis can help radiologists reduce false alarms. For example, a three-dimensional view can prove that a spot that looked questionable in a mammogram screening is really no cause for concern. This leads to fewer callbacks, additional scans and biopsies.
- Earlier detection: With tomosynthesis, additional images of the breast are taken and synthesized into a 3-D data set, much like a CT scan. This finer detail works to detect cancers earlier than standard mammography.
- Better visualization: Three-dimensional images help radiologists see the size, shape and location of an abnormality. In a 2-D mammogram, it could be hidden.
- More comprehensive care: When cancer is detected in one breast, 15 percent of women have another tumor in the same breast or in the other breast. Tomosynthesis screens the whole breast, not just the problem area.
Easier detection: By reducing the effects of overlapping breast tissue which can hide small tumors, tomosynthesis can make a breast abnormality easier to see.
What to Expect From a Tomosynthesis Exam
A tomosynthesis exam may be used as a screening tool in conjunction with traditional 2-D digital mammography. As with a digital mammogram, the technologist will take images from different angles.
During the tomosynthesis portion of the exam, the X-ray arm of the mammography machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of breast images at a number of angles.
The whole procedure should take approximately the same amount of time as that of a traditional digital mammogram, and the patient experience is very similar.