This Breast Cancer Screening Method Catches Way More Tumors Than Mammography

Since the 1960’s, mammography has proven to be an invaluable tool in screening for breast cancer, spotting the disease before women show any symptoms.

Now, a new large-scale study shows that a 3-D screening method called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) is significantly better at detecting the potentially fatal disease. It’s also less painful than mammography — the breast doesn’t have to be compressed as much — and exposes women to less radiation.

“Our study is unique since it is the only population-based trial that investigates breast tomosynthesis alone compared to mammography, and our first results are really striking,” Dr. Sophia Zackrisson, a radiologist at Lund University in Sweden and one of the researchers behind the new study, says in a video describing the research (above).

Flat versus 3D. For the study, the researchers recruited 7,500 women between the ages of 40 and 74 and screened them for breast cancer using both traditional mammography and DBT.

Whereas traditional mammography produces one flat image of the breast — which can obscure tumors — DBT produces X-ray images from multiple angles, which allows doctors to see a layered image of the breast.

What was found? Together, the screening methods detected breast cancer in 68 women. Twenty-one of those cases were identified only by DBT, while one of the cases was identified only by mammography. Overall, DBT found more than 40 percent more breast tumors compared to mammography.

One downside was that the DBT yielded a higher recall rate, meaning more cancer-free women had to be called in for additional tests. That’s a bit surprising, as previous research found DBT to have lower recall rates.

The researchers called for further studies to investigate the technique’s rate of overdiagnosis.

What’s the takeaway? “While it’s not too early to recommend DBT, —> Read More