What it is: Digital breast tomosynthesis is a relatively recently innovation for imaging women with dense breast tissue. Stony Brook was one of the first three centers in the world to work with this new technology, in collaboration with Siemens Corporation.
How it works: Using a modified X-ray tube and detector, the process starts by taking a series of projections through the breast. Computer algorithms then reconstruct images. A series of 60 or more images are produced for each patient and reviewed on a high-resolution mammographic display station by a radiologist. By constructing “slices” through the breast tissue, the images show lesions much more clearly, since they reduce the amount of overlapping breast tissue shown on a give slice. Ordinarily breast tissue can obscure lesions, and studies show that lesions are much more conspicuous on the tomosynthesis machine.
Why it is used: Even though mammography is still the best modality for early diagnosis of breast cancer, 15 percent of the cases in women who develop breast cancer are initially missed on mammography. This is often because of dense breast tissue, which blocks the x-rays and produces poor image quality. Tomosynthesis offers these women an alternative early detection option.