Breast Imaging With 25X Less Radiation

Breast imaging technology delivers sharper images with less radiation dose

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) More is being learned about the effects of radiation we’re exposed to with everything from dental X-rays to CT scanning. Lots of common medical testing delivers radiation exposure. A new technology may be an excellent resolution to these problems.

Imaging technology being researched produces 3D images of the breast that are 2-3 times sharper than those of conventional scanners and are delivered with 25 times less radiation.

These are called Synchrotron X-rays that are still in the investigational stage.

"Define a breast cancer screening schedule."

A group of scientists - physicists, radiologists and mathematicians – from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the University of California (UCLA), among other institutions, developed this system.

What’s commonly used today –"dual-view digital mammography" - is limited to only two views and the clarity of these images - what radiologists call spatial resolution - is inconsistent.

CT (computed tomography) scans aren’t used in the diagnosis of breast cancer because the radiation exposure is too high for delicate “radiosensitive” breast tissue.

The scientists in this study came up with a way to process the data and reconstruct the image from the CT (computed tomography) scan.

They did this by adding three things: 1) high energy X-rays that require less radiation; 2) a special detection technology known as “phase contrast imaging” that produces a higher quality image with less radiation; and 3) a mathematical algorithm called EST for short that enables the processing of hundreds of images into a clear, sharp 3D picture.

"Three-dimensional reconstructions, like the ones created in this research, are produced using sophisticated software and a powerful computer that can combine many images into one 3-D image, much like slices of an orange,” said Jianwei (John) Miao, PhD, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and researcher with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

"We developed a more powerful algorithm that requires fewer slices to get a clearer 3-D picture, Dr. Miao said in a press release.

Wei Tse Yang, MD, professor and chief of the Breast Imaging Section at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, told dailyRx News, "This is an exciting discovery exploiting the 3D-capabilities of CT with significantly reduced dose to the breast, assembled by a multidisciplinary team that is still in the investigational phase.”

“Considerations for clinical application include spatial resolution, adequate coverage of the entire breast tissue (posterior and axillary tail), need for intravenous contrast enhancement and the cost associated with Synchrotron X-ray production," said Dr. Yang.

This technology is still in the early research stages and won’t be available for some time.

Study findings were published October 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This research was supported by by UC Discovery/TomoSoft Technologies Grant, National Institutes of Health and the DFG–Cluster of Excellence Munich–Centre for Advanced Photonics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 22, 2012
Last Updated:
October 22, 2012