New Breast Cancer Screening Tool Shows Promise
A relatively new type of mammogram—called tomosynthesis or digital tomosynthesis—may provide a number of benefits over conventional mammography when it comes to detecting breast cancer. Although tomosynthesis is approved by the FDA for breast cancer screening, it is currently available only in some hospitals and is not considered the standard screening method at this time.
Tomosynthesis provides three dimensional (3-D) images, while images provided by conventional mammograms are two dimensional. More research is needed, but benefits of tomosynthesis may include earlier detection of small, hidden, or multiple cancers; greater precision in locating tumors; fewer "false alarms" requiring further testing, such as unnecessary biopsies; and clearer images of dense breast tissue.
The procedure for tomosynthesis is similar to regular mammogram. The breast is compressed for about seven seconds and an x-ray machine takes about 11 images from different angles, which are then assembled by a computer into a 3-D image of the breast. Drawbacks include higher cost than conventional mammography and longer wait times for interpretation of the images.
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