Cone Beam Computed Tomography could make mammogram agony a thing of the past

November 27, 2015

Researchers in the U.S. have found that by using a Cone Beam Computed Tomography scan, which is described as a souped-up X-ray, 3-D pictures can be produced which make it possible to tell distinguish between a benign lesion and a tumour.

Not only is the new scan a more comfortable experience than a mammogram, it is also more accurate and would make the painful procedure of compressing the breasts between glass plates obsolete.

The researchers at the University of Rochester in New York say the scan can also provide pictures of tissue around the ribs and outer breast towards the armpit, where 50 percent of cancers are found.

The Cone Beam Breast Computed Tomography scanner takes 360-degree views of breast anatomy, and in one case showed a cancer which was hard to detect on a mammogram.

According to Dr. Avice O'Connell, director of women's imaging at the university's Medical Centre, who led the study, trials of the system are still being carried out and complete results and will not be available until 60 women have undergone the imaging.

O'Connell says so far the Cone Beam scanner has detected every tumour seen on a mammogram.

O'Connell says mammograms in the best hands in the world will miss 15 percent of tumours because they are difficult to read.

This is because the mammogram X-ray reduces a three-dimensional structure, the breast, to two dimensions and mammograms often show only part of a tumour, and what appears as a speck on a mammogram is often at the core of a much larger tumour.

O'Connell believes the Cone Beam system will be popular if it is ever approved as it is far more comfortable than a mammogram.

The process takes only 10 seconds; the breast is allowed to hang through a hole in the table while the scanner takes 300 shots from every angle.

The scanner has the same dose of radiation as a mammogram but the procedure will probably cost more; the average cost of a mammogram is $80, while a CT can cost several hundred.

Breast cancer remains the biggest cancer killer of women, after lung cancer, with 1.2 million cases globally and 270,000 in the United States alone.

It kills 500,000 men and women every year globally and 40,000 in the United States.

The university has licensed the technology to a Rochester, New York start-up company, Koning Corporation, to make, use and sell Cone Beam scanners.

The researchers presented their study at a Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago.