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Transforming breast cancer screening and diagnosis

University of Sydney Professor

Patrick Brennan

Mammography is the front line tool in breast cancer diagnosis and screening, however the technique, and the more recently introduced digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography), are limited in their ability to detect all tumours. They also use relatively high doses of radiation and require patients’ breasts to be uncomfortably compressed during the screening process.

This study is a continuation of research from a pilot study, in which Professor Brennan’s team, including Drs Tim Gureyev and Sheridan Mayo, developed an innovative alternative, called in-line phase-contrast computed tomography (PCT), a highly effective, low-dose, pain-free solution to future breast screening that will ultimately help to reduce deaths from breast cancer.

PCT produces large improvements in image quality, providing improved sensitivity and specificity of breast cancer diagnosis compared to existing mammographic techniques. It can detect very small tumours potentially without the need for compressing the breast, and could prevent false readings from breast screening.

This two-year project aims to provide a path for the clinical implementation PCT and outline how the new imaging technique should be used. This will include developing guidelines for how clinicians can quantify, evaluate and optimise the detection of small tumours in breast tissue using PCT, as well as identifying key imaging parameters and data analysis techniques.

The scope of the project includes conducting the world-first patient trial and via the NBCF-funded BREAST program, allowing expert radiologists in Australia and the US to assess images produced using PCT and compare them with images from currently available imaging technology.

Overall, the project will result in the establishment of a new technique and imaging protocol, transforming breast cancer diagnostic methods for the better.

University of Sydney Professor

Patrick Brennan