3-dimensional breast cancer scans may improve tumor detection without increasing radiation

23 Oct

Researchers at UCLA have developed a new technique that will produce images of breast tissue that are two to three times clearer than the images produced in a traditional  CT scanner. The images are three-dimensional and require less X-ray radiation than current techniques.

“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,” Jianwei (John) Miao, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and researcher with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA said in a press release. “It is very important to keep the dose low to prevent damage to this sensitive tissue during screening.”

Miao also said that the traditional breast cancer screening technique, dual-view digital mammography may miss tumors, causing delayed diagnosis.

“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,” Miao said in a press release.

But, the technique, which is still in its research phase may not be available to health care facilities for some time, according to Alberto Bravin, managing physicist of the biomedical research laboratory at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

“A high-quality X-ray source is an absolute requirement for this technique,” Bravin said. “While we can demonstrate the power of our technology, the X-ray source must come from a small enough device for it to become commonly used for breast cancer screening. Many research groups are actively working to develop this smaller X-ray source. Once this hurdle is cleared, our research is poised to make a big impact on society.”

The research was funded by UC Discovery/Tomosoft Technologies; the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health; and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft–Cluster of Excellence Munich–Centre for Advanced Photonics.

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