Advanced breast imaging technique reduces unnecessary biopsies by more than a third

A new technique called three-compartment breast (3CB) imaging, which determines the biological tissue composition of a tumor by using mammography, may help reduce unnecessary breast biopsies, costs and patient anxiety, according to a new study published online Dec. 11 in Radiology.  

Karen Drukker, PhD, research associate professor from the department of radiology at the University of Chicago, and colleagues studied how the new technique measures the water, lipid and protein tissue composition throughout the breast.  

With these measurements, the technique may provide radiologists in-depth biological information regarding a tumor and could help identify potential early signs of breast cancer.  

For the study, Drukker and her team analyzed dual-energy mammograms from 109 women who had potentially malignant breast masses immediately before they underwent biopsy. The ensuing biopsies showed 35 masses to be invasive cancers, while the remaining 74 were benign, according to the researchers.  

Using a combined approach, the 3CB images were obtained from the dual-energy mammograms and analyzed with mammography radiomics—a method that uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to analyze features and patterns in images.  

By combining 3CB image analysis and radiomics, the researchers found the positive predictive value improved from 32 percent for visual interpretation to roughly 50 percent. There was also a 36 percent reduction in biopsies and the technique performed with an overall 97 percent sensitivity rate.  

The researchers noted that 3CB can easily be added to mammography without requiring extensive modifications of existing equipment and requires a 10 percent additional dose of radiation than standard imaging methods.  

“Because 3CB imaging can be performed with conventional mammography or breast tomosynthesis equipment with minimal changes in workflow and minor modifications, and with only a 10 percent higher dose, the potential exists for wide application of 3CB imaging in diagnostic breast imaging and perhaps also in screening,” Drukker et al. wrote.