ST. LOUIS, October 1, 2012 – Missouri Baptist Medical Center is among the first hospitals in Missouri** to offer a new tool in the diagnosis of breast cancer – 3D-tomosynthesis mammography.
Breast tomosynthesis is a new technology that takes a series of low-dose images that allow a radiologist to view the breast in three dimensions and, in certain cases, see cancers that might not be clearly visible with 2D mammography. The exam takes about the same amount of time as a standard 2D mammogram. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved tomosynthesis technology in 2011.
Since April, the Breast HealthCare Center at Missouri Baptist has been engaged in a study of 400 diagnostic patients with 3D-tomosynthesis. Physicians tracked the effectiveness of the new technology in diagnostic mammograms, which are performed in order to evaluate a breast complaint or abnormality detected by physical exam or routine screening mammography. Diagnostic mammography differs from screening mammography in that additional views of the breast usually are taken.
Physicians at Missouri Baptist found advantages of 3D-tomosynthesis mammography to be two-fold: In more than half of all cases, the technology allowed them to more clearly evaluate dense breast tissue for asymmetry and masses. In addition, the need for additional workup with ultrasound was avoided in 11 to 14 percent of patients because the radiologists could determine that abnormalities seen on previous mammograms were, in fact, overlapping breast tissue.
“Our early results show tomosynthesis was a positive help in more than half of diagnostic patients we tracked,” said Geoffrey Hamill, MD, chief of mammography at Missouri Baptist. “It also resulted in decreased need for further ultrasound workup in 11 to 14 percent of patients we evaluated during the study period.”
The study found that time to complete a diagnostic exam with tomosynthesis was two minutes longer, and that the addition of tomosynthesis slightly increased radiation dose, but it still is well within the FDA guidelines.
Tomosynthesis was most helpful in evaluating tissue asymmetry/distortion and masses. According to Dr. Hamill, the real strength of tomosynthesis will be its eventual application to screening mammography. “We expect that tomosynthesis will help us detect smaller cancers at an earlier stage when used with screening mammography, especially in women with dense tissue.”
** Note that physicians at Washington University School of Medicine at the Siteman Cancer Center’s Breast Center participated in early trials of the technology and continue to use it for select diagnostic testing. Missouri Baptist Medical Center, based in St. Louis, is a member of BJC HealthCare, one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States, delivering services to residents primarily in the greater St. Louis, southern Illinois and mid-Missouri regions.