A new study in Radiology on the use of digital breast tomosynthesis for breast screening makes the case that DBT has so many advantages over conventional 2D digital mammography that it should be considered the gold standard for breast screening.
Unlike 2D mammography, DBT systems scan around the breast in an arc, acquiring multiple breast images that are combined into 3D volumes. The technique is believed to be more effective in revealing pathology that might be obscured on 2D projections.
Previous research already demonstrated the effectiveness of DBT for certain uses, but the new study is notable for its large patient population, as well as its focus on general screening rather than subgroups like women with cancer risk factors such as dense breast tissue.
Researchers led by Dr. Emily Conant of the University of Pennsylvania reviewed DBT’s performance in five large U.S. healthcare systems, with a total study population of over 1 million women.
The advantages of DBT were notable:
- Higher cancer detection rate: 5.5 vs. 4.5 per 1k women screened
- Lower recall rate: 8.9% vs. 10.3%
- Higher recall PPV: 5.9% vs. 4.3%.
On the negative side, DBT had higher biopsy rates, of 17.6 biopsies per 1,000 women versus 14.5 biopsies for 2D digital mammography. But PPV of biopsy for both techniques was largely the same.
Researchers note that breast cancer mortality rates have fallen 41% since 1989, a development attributed to earlier diagnosis and better treatment. DBT could help accelerate this trend as it finds more cancers relative to 2D digital mammography.
This study reinforces the idea that DBT is now the gold standard for breast screening. While mammography vendors have already seen high market penetration for DBT systems, the new study is likely to convince any remaining holdouts that 3D mammography is a necessary technology for any breast imaging facility.