New Mammography Test Uses 3D

A new procedure that takes a 3D picture of the breast may soon revolutionize the way women are screened for breast cancer. Testing on the new procedure is taking place here in Houston and as Bill Stamps reports — the test could be available to the general public as early as next spring.

The procedure is called digital tomosynthesis and what it does is take 3D pictures of the breast. Regular mammography records x-ray pictures on film, but digital mammography records the pictures on the computer. Dr. Stephen Rose of Houston is one of a select few doing testing on the procedure. He believes the impact this test could have is enormous.

“I think it’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen in my professional career as far as the impact that I think it will have, because it’s rare that new technology does both improve your ability to detect what you’re trying to find and at the same time, improve the ability not to detect things that you shouldn’t find.”

The key he says is the ability to detect tumors earlier, yet also be able to rule out other things that a doctor looking at a normal mammogram might have questions about.

“Those things that we would look at on the mammogram and say we’re not sure what it is. With this procedure we’re now able to look at it and say that’s really nothing to worry about and we don’t have to do the additional tests.”

Dr. Rose says the test itself isn’t much different than a normal mammogram.

“To the patient it looks and feels like a regular digital mammogram, but the tube actually makes a quick three second sweep and by doing so generates slices through the breast, more like slabs through the breast on the imaging side and find smaller tumors earlier.”

Digital tomosynthesis is currently being tested at several locations across the country including here in Houston. Dr. Rose presented his case to a panel of the Food and Drug Administration last month and got the panel’s recommendation. Now he’ll continue to test the procedure as he awaits the FDA’s approval. Even with these technological breakthroughs he says women still need to get screened yearly starting around age 40.

“It’s more important when you’re younger to get screened yearly because tumors in that age group are more aggressive.”

Dr. Rose is convinced this new test will change the way mammograms are done. In his opinion, when it comes to medical breakthroughs, it doesn’t get much bigger than this.

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