The technology behind three-dimensional breast imaging, in addition to standard digital mammography, has led to better diagnostic accuracy and reduced false positive recall rates, according to a recent study published by Radiology, a journal from the Radiological Society of North America.
Tomosynthesis captures multiple images from various angles around the breast that are used to create a three-dimensional image of the breast. A traditional screening digital mammogram involves two X-ray images of each breast, according to the radiological society.
The three-dimensional mammography is especially helpful in women who have dense breasts because more things can be hidden, said Nancy Babich, director of diagnostic imaging for the regional Porter Health Care System.
Porter Regional Hospital offers the technology in its new women's center. The center generally does not use it as a screening tool with every patient, but it is used when women are called back for further testing or for women who have dense breasts.
"It finds a lot of the missed cancers," Babich said.
As many as 30 percent of breast cancer cases are not detected by standard mammography. And 8 to 10 percent of women receive false positive results, meaning they require further testing, which later shows no cancer is present, according to the National Cancer Institute.
With three-dimensional mammography, patients don't notice a difference in the exam, said Dr. Anastasia Siatras, a breast-fellowship trained radiologist at the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals.
It scans from foot to head, from outside in.
"Instead of transmitting a single image, it's multiple images," she said. "You're able to pick apart the tissue more cleanly."
That lessens the need for callbacks.
"This is a stressful thing for women, to get a mammogram every year," Siatras said. "As soon as they need more imaging, a lot of women get extremely anxious."
The technology also makes radiologists' jobs easier, and they are able to find cancer at an earlier stage.
The Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center offers the technology to all of its patients.
"Almost none have refused; 99.9 percent come in because they want the 3D experience," she said.
Methodist Hospitals acquired the technology for its Gary and Merrillville campuses almost immediately as it became available, spending nearly $1.2 million on two machines, said Dr. B.H. Barai, medical director of Methodist Hospitals Oncology Institute.
Barai said there will be pressure in hospitals for the technology.
"We were first in line to get this machine," he said. "In five years, everybody will have this."