Breast tomosynthesis: improving the detection of breast cancer

Start Year: 2012
Finish Year: 2014
Chief Investigator: Professor Patrick Brennan
Grant Type: Novel Concept Awards
Institution: University of Sydney

Mammography, using X-rays, is the primary diagnostic tool for detecting breast cancer. More than 250,000 and 75,000 women were respectively X-rayed within screening and symptomatic populations each year in NSW alone. Even though mammography has served us well for over three decades, readers regularly fail to detect cancers.

In a recent study the performance of expert readers was tested. Thirty nine per cent of lesions were missed by 129 Australian and New Zealand breast imaging experts. This reflects the clinical situation where sensitivity of screening mammography is around 70% and unnecessary recalling of women for further examinations may be as high as 10% (resulting in high numbers of follow-up radiological or invasive examinations when there is actually no cancer).

In the 40-49 year-old group where the breast is denser, almost 50% of cancers are missed. To resolve this, a more sensitive and specific tool is needed. Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) is a novel imaging technology in which image slices of the breast can be produced facilitating the production of volumetric, 3D data, which should improve detection of cancer and better recognition of normal tissues. This study, involving world-leading clinicians and scientists, will enable the value of this novel technology to be assessed and optimised.