Spectral mammography could accurately measure breast density, reduce the radiation dose of mammography by up to half and help determine cancer risk, according to preliminary research presented Aug. 2 at the 54th annual meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM).
"Spectral mammography vs. standard mammography is like comparing color television to black and white TV,” Sabee Molloi, PhD, vice chairman of research for the department of radiological sciences, University of California, Irvine, said in a release. “Although the object represented is the same, the color image has more information inside. Spectral mammography allows the image to be viewed at two different energy levels, instead of just one, helping quantify the density of a woman’s breasts and, in turn, her relative risk.”
Researchers used spectral mammography to image four phantom models of breasts, representing different glandular thicknesses. The mammogram is generated in two different energy ranges, allowing it to be viewed as two images. The results suggest spectral mammography could measure volumetric breast density in a screening exam with an error rate of less than 2 percent.
In a press conference, co-author Huanjun Ding, PhD, explained that a lack of standardization and quantification has hampered attempts to measure breast density. “The ideal method is simple, accurate and ready to integrate,” he said.
Researchers are planning a study to test spectral mammography in pilot studies of women as part of regular screening. If validated by other studies and approved by the FDA, spectral mammography could become the standard of care for screening mammograms and guide how often a woman should undergo mammography, or whether she needs further testing, according to researchers.
Ding added that the new system produces images at a 50 percent lower dose than standard systems.
To learn more about adjuncts to screening mammography, read "Move Over Mammo," in the July/Aug. issue of Health Imaging.