Hoag unveils 3-D mammograms

NEWPORT BEACH — The Hoag Hospital Breast Care Center unveiled new 3-D mammography technology Wednesday that will enable doctors to detect cancer in dense breast tissue.

The Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) is the first of its kind in the state.

Hoag Hospital Irvine will also feature the new technology by the end of the year, said the center's director, Dr. Gary Levine.

"I expect this technology will eventually roll out to other centers in the state," Levine said. "This really is a step forward in breast-cancer detection and, like with any advancement in technology, you need a site to be the leader."

DBT works by taking 15 pictures of the breast in 1 millimeter intervals, revealing multiple layers of breast tissue, as opposed to traditional 2-D imaging, which only provides one view, according to a presentation led by Levine.

Levine likened the technology to a deck of cards that doctors can either view together or one at a time, such as from the middle of the deck, to view an image separately.

This technological breakthrough is especially important for women with dense breast tissue, which affects about 75% of women in their 40s. Dense breast tissue can hide a potentially cancerous growth when viewed in a 2-D mammography and it also leads to false positives or negatives.

These factors can impede timely treatment. A patient whose cancer is detected early has a 92% chance of recovery, but that number decreases to just 7% if the cancer is found in the last stages.

While the improved imaging method is open to all patients, doctors will first recommend that women without dense breast tissue undergo traditional 2-D mammography.

This is partly due to the high volume of interested patients that the new method is expected to generate — the machine can screen up to 50 women a day — and because 3-D has marginally more radiation than 2-D mammography, Levine said.

However, the radiation difference is "negligible," Levine said.

The average radiation dose a patient receives during DBT imagining is about 0.1 millisievert, while 2-D imaging is about 0.05 millisievert.

In both cases, the amount of radiation is less than a person receives on an average airplane flight from New York to California, Levine said.

And as DBT reduces the number of women called back to be re-screened or who undergo unnecessary biopsies because of false positives, the new method is a dramatic improvement in doctors' ability to care for patients' health.

"The earlier we can detect cancer, the better the prognosis is," Levine said.


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