Digital tomosynthesis is a fairly new diagnostic procedure in breast cancer screening. Multiple x-ray images are taken during an exam using equipment that is similar to the machine used for a standard mammogram. Positioning of the breast is also similar to that used for conventional mammography with the breast being pulled away from the body and compressed between two glass plates.
Two x-rays are taken in conventional mammography: one side to side and one top to bottom. The resulting full thickness image may hide breast cancer in overlapping tissue. Tomosynthesis offers images of thin slices of the breast, sometimes referred to as “3D imaging”. Less pressure is applied to the breast during the procedure, making the test more comfortable for patients than “standard” mammography.
A greater number of slices available during tomosynthesis allow for higher accuracy in locating abnormalities in breast tissue, clearer images, a higher likelihood of locating multiple tumors and earlier detection for small abnormalities. There are also fewer callbacks to the office for tomosynthesis patients because of the more detailed evaluation from the original images provided by this technique.
“We are excited about providing this new, state-of-the art technology,” says Dr. Michal Sloan of Casper Medical Imaging. “Giving Radiologists 80 views of the breast tissue, rather than the 2 views of a typical mammogram, allows for a much better screening exam for our patients. With Tomosynthesis, we see a significant decrease of false positives and a higher detection rate for smaller cancers. And, as all we know, early detection saves lives.”
Mammography for screening and diagnostic purposes, as well as MRI, is available at Casper Medical Imaging. An MRI can be performed when mammography results are inconclusive or for women who are at high-risk of breast cancer.
Dr. Sloan says, “Tomosynthesis is an evolution of the X-ray mammogram technique that has been around for decades. Insurance companies are beginning to accept tomosynthesis as an improvement over the conventional mammogram and are reimbursing for the procedure more and more, though some still haven’t gotten on the bandwagon, yet. It’s important to contact your insurance company prior to a tomosynthesis exam if you have any questions about whether it will be covered. An MRI is a different type of technology that uses a large magnet and radio waves to obtain images of the breast. Breast MRI, while adding essential diagnostic information in certain cases, is reserved for specific situations – it isn’t used for routine screening”
It’s estimated that over 230,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Screening helps to detect breast cancer before symptoms occur. Warning signs include a lump in the breast or underarm area, darkening of the breast, itchy nipple, nipple discharge and localized pain that doesn’t go away. Early detection is key to a more successful course of treatment.