Nationwide study on 3-D mammography provides major step forward in screening for breast cancer

University Hospitals one of 13 sites in study

CLEVELAND - There is little question now that the latest generation of breast screening technology is a major step forward in catching early breast cancer. In a large, nationwide study on the impact of tomosynthesis — or 3-D mammography — the detection rate of invasive breast cancers was increased by 41 percent over the previous generation of digital mammography. 

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 13 sites across the US and involved 450,000 patients, including 173,000 tomosynthesis patients. Dr. Donna Plecha, the Director of Breast Imaging and Mammography at University Hospitals is a co-author of the study.

"We have a lot to offer patients, we're able to pick up these cancers early and cure them. They're so much easier to treat when we pick them up early," she said.

The study also answers a lot of the negative comments about mammography that have come out of recent, retrospective studies concerning false positives and unnecessary biopsies. This new study showed 3-D mammograms resulted in 15 percent fewer false positives, and a 29 percent increase in the detection of all breast cancers. There were also fewer call backs, something that can cause many women unnecessary anxiety.

Right now, however, this technology is not widely available. It has been offered at University Hospitals since 2011. Plecha said, "I hope this study helps change that and more places will bring this into their toolbox for screening patients for breast cancer."  

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