New 3D Mammography Method Involves Dramatically Reduced Radiation Doses

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(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – High-resolution phase contrast X-ray tomographic mammography allows sensitive 3D diagnostic imaging of breast tissues with dramatically reduced doses of ionizing radiation to breast tissue – potentially reducing the risk of X-ray-induced cancers, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

The method allows rapid acquisition of data for 3D image reconstruction, with lower radiation doses than current 2D imaging modalities, reported Yunzhe Zhao, of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA in Los Angeles, California, and coauthors from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility ESRF in Cedex, France and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.

“By combining phase contrast X-ray imaging with an image reconstruction method known as equally sloped tomography, we imaged a human breast in three dimensions and identified a malignant cancer with a pixel size of 92 µm and a radiation dose less than that of duel-view mammography,” the authors reported.

This approach “can reduce the radiation dose and acquisition time by ~74% relative to conventional phase contrast X-ray tomography, while maintaining high image resolution and image contrast,” they noted.

“Although more advanced technologies such as digital mammography have been developed to improve its image quality, there are three potential risks associated with mammography,” including missed tumors in up to 20% of cases, false-positive findings leading to unnecessary procedures, and the risk of cancers attributable to ionizing radiation from repeated mammography, the authors noted.

The glandular tissues of the breast are radiosensitive, limiting the safe routine use of repeated, relatively high-radiation-dose CT imaging for mammography.

But the new method allows high-resolution 3D diagnostic breast cancer imaging that is less likely to miss tumors and “can, in principle, be performed at clinical-compatible doses,” the authors reported.

“An important step toward the clinical implementation of this method is the requirement of compact X-ray sources,” the authors noted. “Fortunately, such compact X-ray sources are currently under rapid development worldwide, including compact synchrotron radiation, tabletop high harmonic generation, Compton backscattering systems, and liquid-metal-jet-anode micro-focus sources.”

While the new study involved breast tumor tissue, the imaging method should be useful for a wide range of other imaging applications that demand fast, low-radiation-dose acquisition of high-resolution diagnostic images, the authors wrote.


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