NBCF researcher plays key role in landmark 3D mammogram study

April 30th, 2013

NBCF funding has allowed an Australian researcher to play a pivotal role in a study which has shown that three-dimensional (3D) mammograms can improve cancer detection and reduce false positives when used with standard 2D mammograms.

Associate Professor Nehmat Houssami of the University of Sydney, who holds an NBCF Practitioner Fellowship, is scientific director of a joint Italian-Australian research team, which recently published their first data in the prestigious journal, The Lancet Oncology.


The study, which involved around 7000 Italian women, examined whether combined 2D and 3D screening was more accurate at detecting cancers than 2D screening alone.

The researchers detected a total of 59 cancers in 57 patients. Around two-thirds of the cancers detected (66%) were found in both 2D and integrated 2D and 3D screening, but a third of cancers were not spotted when just the 2D mammogram was used, and were only found when integrated 2D and 3D screening was used.

The researchers also found that the integrated 2D and 3D screens resulted in fewer false positives (where screening shows there is a suspicious abnormality, which turns out to be a false alarm after further testing).

The new study is the first completed trial to report on the effectiveness of 3D screening in a standard breast screening program.

Associate Professor Houssami said the study showed that integrated 2D and 3D mammography in population breast-cancer screening increased detection of breast cancer and could reduce recalls for false-positive results.

“Our results do not warrant an immediate change to breast-screening practice, but they show the urgent need for randomised controlled trials of integrated 2D and 3D versus 2D mammography.”

Associate Professor Houssami said the NBCF fellowship would allow her continued involvement in the study, which will explore the data further.