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DBT Beats Standard Digital Mammography in Breast Cancer Detection

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 15 Mar 2023
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Image: A huge study has found tomosynthesis to be better at breast cancer detection (Photo courtesy of Pexels)
Image: A huge study has found tomosynthesis to be better at breast cancer detection (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

The most efficient way to detect breast cancer at an early stage is through regular screening. Traditional screening using two-dimensional (2D) digital mammography is still prevalent in many sites; however, it is limited in its ability to identify some cancers. There is mounting evidence to indicate that digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), a more advanced technology, offers a higher rate of breast cancer detection by capturing multiple X-ray images of the breast from different angles instead of the standard single image obtained with a 2D mammogram, making it particularly useful for women with denser breast tissue. Now, a huge study of over a million women has confirmed that DBT improves breast cancer screening outcomes over screening with standard digital mammography alone.

For this retrospective cohort study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA, USA) compiled data from five large health care systems across the U.S. The study involved over one million women aged 40 to 79 who were screened with either 2D digital mammography alone or DBT between January 2014 and December 2020. The researchers compared screening outcomes, including cancer detection and false positive rates, between the two screening groups. The study found that DBT was associated with significant improvements in screening outcomes. Patients screened with DBT had a higher cancer detection rate of 5.3 per 1,000, compared to 4.5 per 1,000 for those screened with 2D digital mammography alone. Additionally, DBT showed a lower false positive and recall rate from screening.

“We showed that the most important mammographic screening outcomes, increased cancer detection combined with fewer false positives, were significantly improved when women were screened with digital breast tomosynthesis compared to 2D digital mammography alone,” said study co-author Emily F. Conant, M.D., FSBI, professor of radiology and chief in the Division of Breast Imaging at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Therefore, women should seek out sites that routinely offer breast cancer screening with DBT.”

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