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Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital offers 3-D technology for breast cancer detection

Cutline: “Our goal is to find breast cancer as early as possible, when tumors are only millimeters in size instead of centimeters,” said Arlene E. Ricardo, M.D., a breast surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital.

Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital offers state-of-the-art, three-dimensional (3-D), digital technology that improves physicians’ ability to detect smaller tumors at the earliest stages of breast cancer, potentially saving the lives of hundreds of women.

Statistics indicate one in eight women will develop breast cancer, and according to the American Cancer Society, if detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.

“Breast tomosynthesis sees through dense breast tissue and spots tumors that a traditional mammogram is more likely to miss,” said Arlene E. Ricardo, M.D., a breast surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest. “Our goal is to find breast cancer as early as possible, when tumors are only millimeters in size instead of centimeters.”

Tomosynthesis is a 3-D imaging technology that enables radiologists to see ‘inside” the breast. Breast tissue is made up of pockets of dense tissue surrounded by fat. On a traditional, flat mammogram, the tissues overlap which can mimic or even hide breast cancer. During a tomosynthesis exam, multiple, low-dose images of the breast are acquired at different angles. These images are then used to produce a series of one-millimeter thick slices that can be viewed by radiologists as a 3-D reconstruction of the breast.

“While the quality of images with 2-D digital mammography systems is excellent and is still considered the gold standard of breast screening, the ability to peel away layers with tomosynthesis is a tremendous advance,” said Ricardo, who specializes in breast diseases surgery. “It provides an opportunity to markedly improve what we are doing in breast screening.”

Tomosynthesis offers a number of advantages over conventional 2-D digital mammography, including improved diagnostic and screening accuracy, fewer recalls, reduction in additional testing for false positive results, greater radiologist confidence, and 3-D lesion localization.

It is especially valuable for women receiving a baseline screening, those who have dense breast tissue, and women with a history of breast cancer.

Memorial Hermann Southwest urges women to receive yearly mammograms, whether tomosynthesis is available to them or not.

“Multiple studies have shown mammography increases survival rates,” said Ricardo. “And, it’s not just getting a mammogram, but getting one every year, that is important. Studies clearly show annual screenings, starting at age 40, save lives.”