3D mammography is costly—but its benefits may more than pay the difference

While digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), also known as 3D mammography, may cost more than digital mammography (DM) screenings at first, researchers believe it could reduce cancer screening costs in the long run. Findings were presented at the 2017 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Improving care and lowering costs might mean more upfront spending, but savings can occur later. In this study, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania evaluated the cost and effectiveness of DBT when compared to DM in the long run of cancer care.

Overall, the study analyzed 46,483 screening episodes for cost and patient outcomes from two hospitals from 2012 to 2013. More than half (53 percent) of the participants represented DM while 47 percent were represented by DBT. Researchers evaluated the two methods on true positive, true negative, false positive and false negative rates.

Results showed DBT to be the more effective screening method, with a lower false positive and higher true negative rate than DM. However, DBT cost an average of $110 more than DM due to higher screening and follow-up costs.

"Early detection is critical to saving lives and lowering costs," said senior author Emily F. Conant, MD, chief of Breast Imaging at Penn Medicine. "Fortunately, breast imaging is more precise than ever thanks to DBT. Despite its higher initial cost, DBT is increasingly being embraced by radiologists nationwide. If you look at expenses associated with breast diagnosis in the following year after initial screening, DBT is more cost effective in terms of health system or population level screening."