Improved breast cancer screening from Radiology Associates
Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights continued improvement in breast cancer screening
Improvements in breast cancer screening since the 1960s have been impressive. Today more women are screened, with lower cost, less radiation, and greater accuracy than ever before. This is mainly due to the steady improvement in mammographic technology, combined with dramatically lowered costs of imaging through the digital revolution.
In the 1960s, using crude, basic radiography-based mammography, several studies showed an absolute decrease in mortality from breast cancer for women who were screened for breast cancer with mammography. Although issues are still debated about the relative costs and benefits and the optimal frequency and duration of screening, there is no serious scientific opposition to the fact that screening for breast cancer with mammography saves lives.
While the debates over the logistics and constraints of screening continued, dramatic improvements in breast imaging technology occurred. Mammography evolved from a crude radiographic technique into an optimized, specific high-resolution film screen technique, and subsequently into a high-resolution digital technique. This evolution resulted in faster, more accurate, and less expensive exams. At the same time that mammography was improving, important ancillary breast imaging techniques were being developed, including breast ultrasound, breast MRI, and imaging-guided percutaneous needle breast biopsy.
Advances in communication, computation and reporting have greatly simplified stratifying patients based on traditional risk factors, but also based on their genetic make-up. Patients’ 5-year and lifetime breast cancer risk is now routinely incorporated into mammogram reports. Grading scales for fibroglandular tissue density are now also reported. Screening with breast MRI and breast ultrasound for patients with dense fibroglandular breast tissue or increased lifetime breast cancer risk is becoming routine.
Perhaps most importantly, digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) or 3D mammography has been shown to be a significant improvement over routine digital 2D mammography. DBT is beginning to be implemented throughout the country. Many recent studies have shown a reduction in call-back rates by approximately 30 percent, while increasing cancer detection rates by a slightly smaller amount comparing DBT with digital mammography. These developments suggest that breast cancer early detection will continue to increase and that breast cancer mortality will continue to decline.
More about Radiology Associates
Radiology Associates is the leader in breast imaging innovation on the Central Coast. We have helped bring all major advances in breast imaging to the Central Coast. We are committed to breast cancer screening and look forward to continual improvement in breast cancer screening technology for our patients. For more information, please call our Radiology Diagnostic Center at (805) 434-0829.
— By Erik M. Olson, M.D.