Tomosynthesis: A new tool for detecting breast cancer

September 16, 2015| Health and Wellbeing /

Mammograms are a big part of both detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. A new kind of mammogram called tomosynthesis lets radiologists get a more accurate and detailed view of breast tissue. We investigate what breast tomosynthesis involves.

The tomosynthesis X-rays are of 1mm thin ‘slices’ of breast tissue, and the image is acquired by reconstructing 15 projections at slightly different angles. 

Senior Mammographer and MRI Technologist at Epworth Medical Imaging, Conar Haliday talks us through the process.
“A tomosynthesis machine takes multiple X-rays, which are then used to create a 3D digital image of the breast,”
Conar says these slices mean that the radiologist can scroll through the breast in very fine layers.

“Instead of having the breast tissue images all superimposed on top of each other as in a traditional mammogram, we can layer out the breast, helping to see all the breast tissue more clearly and reduce the chances of missing small lesions,” Conar says.

“It essentially gives the radiologist more information, helping with better identification of and reducing the likelihood of ‘false positives’. Because, of this, women are less likely to be called back for additional views, reducing stress and additional radiation exposure.”

Current practice is a ‘combo’ mammogram which takes a tomosynthesis sweep and a conventional mammogram in the one patient compression. 

“We do this to allow for an easy comparison with a patient’s previous mammograms,” Conar says.  

While the total dose of radiation is currently only slightly higher than a conventional mammogram, it is offset by the reduction in the likelihood of being recalled for additional mammograms and the higher rate of breast cancer identification. 

“Keep in mind that technology has improved and the new digital radiography technology is a vast improvement on older computerised radiography technology,” Conar says.

Tomosynthesis is now routine at Epworth HealthCare for all women referred for breast imaging, whether for regular screening or to investigate an area of concern. 

Regular breast checkups are vital for breast cancer screening. 

A doctor referral is required for breast screening at Epworth Medical Imaging, and making an appointment is recommended. For appointments, call 03 9418 8293.  The Breast Clinic at Epworth Freemasons is located alongside Epworth Medical Imaging, and offers a consultation and breast imaging service. No doctor referral is needed.
Contact 03 9418 8162 for an appointment.

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