3-D mammogram scans may be more effective

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Newer 3-D mammogram screening may be more effective at cancer detection, a large-scale study suggests. The technology may also provide the needed clarity to reduce the rate of "false alarms" present in standard breast imaging.

Researchers based in Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, in Park Ridge, Illinois, examined data from thirteen facilities over a 2-year period as the centers transitioned from conventional mammograms to combined 3-D equipment. When the data was examined, tumor detection rates were roughly 4 per 1,000 conventional scans versus about 5 positives per 1,000 for the combined 3-D imaging.

The study authors issued some cautions, as 3-D breast imaging is more expensive and exposes the patient to additional radiation. In addition, a combined system can often cost a facility over $400,000 (double the cost of conventional mammogram machines), and fewer insurers are willing to fully cover the 3-D imaging procedure. The American Cancer Society's senior director for screening, Robert Smith, has stated publicly that he feels the increased cancer detection the 3-D imaging provides outweighs the risk from additional radiation.

3-D mammogram scans may be more effective
3-D mammogram scans may be more effective

3-D mammograms may be better at finding cancer than regular scans, a large study suggests, although whether that means saving more lives isn't known.

The study involved almost half a million breast scans, with more than one-third of them using relatively new 3-D imaging along with conventional scans. The rest used regular mammograms alone.

The 3-D scan combo detected one additional cancer per 1,000 scans, compared with conventional digital mammograms. There were also 15 percent fewer false alarms — meaning fewer initially suspicious scan results that additional testing showed wasn't cancer.

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