An recent alternative to mammograms may be more accurate and more informative. A procedure known as 3D mammography can detect invasive cancers far better than traditional mammograms, claims a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The new study hopes to makes healthcare facilities buy the equipment to perform the procedures, as well as inspire insurance to correctly cover them. The lead author of the study, Dr. Emily Conant, has said that 3D mammography, also called breast tomosynthesis, gives a clearer image of the overall breast tissue.
“Many people have compared it to looking at a book; you can see the cover but you can’t see the information inside. That’s the 2D mammogram – there’s lots of info but it’s hard to see,” Conant, chief of breast imaging in the department of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in an interview with Fox News. “But 3D mammogram allows you to flip through the pages.”
A normal mammogram only shows up as a 2D image. While this provides an adequate image, the 3D mammography is able to allow doctors to fully examine the breast tissue, making it easier for them to spot cancer.
The procedure has the X-ray beam move over the woman’s head, instead of just looking at the breast. It then sends the data into a computer, which is able to create a 3D version of the breast tissue on the screen.
[On a monitor,] we’re actually able to scroll or leaf through the different layers of the breast tissue,” Conant said. “False positives, or things that look funny on a 2D image, are less frequent because we can scroll through. We also can find cancers that were obscured are hidden behind breast tissue.”
Although the 3D mammography is far superior to a regular mammogram, the machines are expensive, and the procedure is not always covered by a patient’s insurance. However, this could change after the findings in Conant’s recent study.
The study looked at 281,187 digital mammography examinations and 173,663 combined tomosynthesis and digital mammography exams from hospitals all over the country.
After going over the data, the researchers noticed that 30 percent more cancers overall were detected by 3D mammography examinations, and 41 percent more invasive cancers were found. The number of false alarms were also cut back by a whopping 15 percent. These percentages are compared to normal digital mammograms.
“The unique thing about these outcomes is that they address the criticism of 2D mammography – too many false positives with not enough cancer detection,” Conant said. “…If we can make mammograms better, we can further refine who needs what when.”
The new study will hopefully allow for more hospitals to get funding for the expensive machines, and will hopefully force more insurance companies to pay for the test to be done.