News Feature | September 7, 2016

Hospitals Adding 3D Mammography To Screenings

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

BSM-doctor tablet

How new technology could help better detect cancer for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

According to a 2014 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the combination of 3D mammography with standard, digital mammograms resulted in 41 percent more invasive breast cancers, indicating the use of 3D technology can help better detect cancer for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Tomosynthesis, or 3D breast imaging, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011, appears to give a more complete, layer-by-layer picture of the breast, unmasking cancers that may be lurking in dense tissue. Tomosynthesis and 2D digital mammography can also be done on the same machine at the same time, adding only a few seconds to the patient’s imaging procedure compared to the 20 additional minutes required to perform a screening ultrasound.

The data studying 454,850 women in 13 medical practices demonstrated that, while standard mammograms detected 2.9 tumors per 1,000 women, the combination detected 4.1 cancers per 1,000 women. Lead researcher Emily Conant, chief of breast imaging at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine said women screed with tomosynthesis were 15 percent less likely to need repeat screenings.

A second study, led by Dr. Christoph Lee of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, evaluated the cost effectiveness of adding 3D mammography to standard digital imaging for women with dense breasts, and found that the results are promising. Lee explained , “Our study was trying to figure out, if we add tomosynthesis [3D mammography] to screening women with dense breasts, will the benefits outweigh the costs?

“We found that the benefits of increasing cancer detection rates and decreasing false positives is well likely to be worth the additional cost of tomosynthesis for screening women with dense breasts from age 50 to 74.”

The Times Herald reported St. John River District in Michigan adopted the technology in early August, while Allegheny Health Network announced the addition of three new 3D mammography units last week.

Now six AHN Breast Center locations throughout Pennsylvania will offer convenient access to breast tomosynthesis, including the Wexford Health & Wellness Pavilion, Bethel Park Health & Wellness Pavilion, and the West Side Health & Wellness Pavilion in Erie.

Pennsylvania began requiring all insurers to pay for 3D mammography in October 2015, making the technology more readily available to women.  3D mammography is used in addition to traditional mammography, and uses an amount of radiation well below federal guidelines.

Meanwhile, the St. John River District has acquired a mobile unit that will be available at the hospital every other Tuesday beginning in November. Brian Taylor, a spokesman for the hospital, said, “We acquired the mobile unit last year and we are taking advantage of the technology now.”

The goal is to bring access to communities that need it. “We take the unit out to communities in southeast Michigan,” Taylor explained. “This makes sense for us and it’s an easy way to bring the service to East China.”