New breast CT scanner rivals mammography

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A new Cone Beam Breast Computed Tomography (CBBCT) scanner was unveiled this week that can capture images equal to or in some cases better than mammography, according to researchers at the University of Rochester.

The (CBBCT) scanner takes 360-degree views of breast anatomy, without having to compress the sensitive tissue. It produces 3D pictures, which are designed to distinguish benign lesions and calcifications from tiny cancers that are sometimes hidden within dense tissue. Also, the CBBCT system clearly displays tissue around the ribs and outer breast toward the armpit. Getting the tissue on the outer edges of the breast to show up on a conventional mammogram film is one reason why technologists must pull and flatten the breast.

"We have one case in which a cancer shows up phenomenally well using this new imaging system, whereas when you look at the same lesion on a mammogram it is hard to detect," said Avice O'Connell, MD, director of women's imaging for the University of Rochester Medical Center and co-principal investigator on the study.

Researchers began by screening 20 volunteers with normal mammograms to see if CBBCT could adequately image the breast. Another group of women was scanned because they had either palpable masses or suspicious mammograms. In those cases, researchers compared the CBBCT to the typical diagnostic imaging workup. In this group, researchers discovered that the CBBCT images could detect breast disease as well as mammography.

The pilot study will continue until 60 participants are enrolled, and a larger clinical trial is planned for 2007. This is the first such study to compare the two imaging techniques in this fashion.