Breast cancer screening with more accuracy, less radiation
With breast cancer screening, there has always been a tradeoff between getting as clear of a picture as possible and not exposing the sensitive tissue to too much x-ray radiation. Now researchers at UCLA may have found a way to produce 3D images of breast tissue that are two to three times sharper than those made using current CT scanners while using a lower dose of radiation than a mammogram. As reported by Kurzweil, this technique could help detect breast tumors earlier and with more accuracy.
One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her lifetime. Today dual-view digital mammography is the most common way of detecting breast cancer but according to Jianwei (John) Miao, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, it is always successful in identifying tumors.
“While commonly used, the limitation is that it provides only two images of the breast tissue, which can explain why 10 to 20 percent of breast tumors are not detectable on mammograms,” said Miao, who is a researcher with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. “A three-dimensional view of the breast can be generated by a CT scan, but this is not frequently used clinically, as it requires a larger dose of radiation than a mammogram. It is very important to keep the dose low to prevent damage to this sensitive tissue during screening.”
Miao’s team got help from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France and the Ludwig Maximilians University in Germany. These European colleagues used a special detection technique called phase contrast tomography to x-ray a human breast from several angles.
The UCLA researchers then used a technique they developed called equally sloped tomography, or EST. It’s a ground-breaking computing algorithm that allows for high-quality image reconstruction. Using EST, researchers took 512 of the x-ray images and created 3D images of the breast that had a higher resolution than ever seen before. Best of all, the entire process exposed the breast to less radiation than a mammogram.
In a blind evaluation, five independent radiologists from Ludwig Maximilians University said that the 3D images produced using this technique had better sharpness, contrast and overall image quality than images created using traditional methods.
This kind of breakthrough could have a huge impact on efforts to diagnose breast cancer earlier and more accurately. Of course, if any doctor wants to share these 3D images with a colleague or patient, they will need a way to do so that’s easier than putting them on a CD and dropping it in the mail. With DICOM Grid, doctors can access, manage and share medical images quickly and securely online.