3D technology takes next step beyond traditional mammography

Posted April 19, 2012, at 3:42 p.m.

MILWAUKEE — After already having been through breast cancer treatment, Michelle Luckiesh did not think twice when doctors at Waukesha Memorial Hospital told her they had a new mammography device that may be able to detect tumors earlier than with conventional mammography.

“I’m all for it even if I have to pay extra,” said Luckiesh, 43, of Hartland, Wis. “Just give me the best stuff.”

In her case, “the best stuff” is the new 3D mammography that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in February 2011 and is finding its way into more and more hospitals.

In conventional 2D mammography, one image of the breast is made. While in most cases that is all that is needed, sometimes normal breast tissue known as fibroglandular tissue can overlap in a traditional mammogram image, making it difficult to distinguish from a tumor. Both appear white in the image.

In about 10 percent of cases, that means the woman may have to come back later for another 2D mammogram.

With 3D mammography, images of the breast are taken from multiple angles and computer software allows those to be built into a 3D image than can be moved around to get different views.

In addition to false positives, 2D mammography may miss up to 20 percent of cancers.

Just how many additional cancers will be detected still remains to be seen, said Alice Rim, head of the section of breast imaging at the Cleveland Clinic. And how much, if any, improvement in mortality also has to be studied, she said.

Under the approval granted by the FDA, women undergoing 3D mammography also will receive a traditional 2D mammogram at the same time.

That means they will be getting about twice the dose of radiation as a conventional mammogram.

But the amount of additional radiation is small and is far outweighed by the benefit of earlier detection, said Elizabeth Burnside, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Wisconsin.

In addition, if having one 2D-3D mammogram can eliminate the need to come back for a second conventional mammogram several months later, the radiation issue is largely irrelevant, she said.

Beyond that, it will save women a lot of unnecessary worry that comes with a false positive finding or an uncertain finding that requires an additional mammogram, she said.

That’s why Luckiesh did not hesitate when she was offered the chance to have a 3D mammogram.

“I want to make sure I don’t have cancer again,” she said.

© 2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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