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3D mammograms best way of detecting breast cancer: study

Updated: June 25, 2014 2:36AM

A new study found that adding 3D imaging to traditional mammography is more effective at detecting breast cancer — including the most lethal kind — and reducing false-positive results.

The largest-to-date study, led by a Chicago-area researcher, was based on 454,850 screening mammograms done at 13 sites nationwide, including at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Breast cancer was successfully picked up at a rate of 5.4 cancers per 1,000 people screened with both 3D imaging and traditional imaging, compared to 4.2 cancers among those who got traditional digital mammography alone, according to the study, which will be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The 3D imaging process also had a 41 percent higher rate of detecting invasive breast cancers, the most lethal form of breast cancer.

In addition, adding in 3D imaging resulted in 15 percent fewer false alarms, meaning they were called back for further analysis, only to find out they didn’t actually have cancer.

As the name implies, 3D imaging, also known as tomosynthesis, views the breast three-dimensionally and shows a more detailed picture of the breast than a standard digital mammogram, which is two-dimensional.

An editorial to the study, also in JAMA, said the study shows 3D mammography is likely better than digital mammography alone, as it “potentially improves sensitivity [for detecting breast cancer] while addressing the two most common arguments against mammography screening, false-positive findings and overdiagnosis,” wrote Dr. Etta D. Pisano from the Medical University of South Carolina and Martin J. Yaffe, of the University of Toronto.

But they, as well as the lead author Dr. Sarah M. Friedewald, also stressed that more studies need to be done because the new study didn’t analyze whether 3D imaging actually led to a survival benefit. Friedewald is co-medical director of the Caldwell Breast Center at Advocate Lutheran General.

Patients in the study were given traditional mammography alone for one year before 3D was added to their screening over a three-year period.

Hologic Inc., which makes 3D imaging devices, provided a research grant for the study. Smaller studies have similarly found better screening with 3D.

Breast cancer kills approximately 40,000 women in the United States annually.

Three-D imaging is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but it is not yet considered the standard of care for breast cancer screening and one major insurance carriers said they do not pay for this procedure.

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1

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