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Tomosynthesis and breast cancer

Tomosynthesis (so called “Digital Tomosynthesis” or “Digital Breast Tomosynthesis” or “DBT”) is a newly developed improved type of mammography (3-D) – the method for performing high-resolution limited-angle tomography at mammographic dose levels. It is a new dimension in breast cancer detection. Tomosynthesis can provide a higher diagnostic accuracy compared to conventional mammography which is highly appreciated by experts.

It is well known that mammography plays a key role in early breast cancer detection but adding tomosynthesis to mammography increases cancer detection rate (especially invasive cancers) and reduces false-positive results (decreasing women’s emotional stress). Digital tomosynthesis creates the three-dimensional (3-D) picture of the breast tissue using X-rays.

Pioneered at Massachusetts General Hospital, breast tomosynthesis is an advanced type of mammogram that can offer better cancer detection, fewer call backs and greater peace of mind.

In general, mammography usually takes two X-rays of each breast from different angles: top to bottom and side to side. The conventional digital mammography produces one image of overlapping tissue and it is pretty difficult to detect early stages of breast cancer. But performed with digital mammography using the same scanner, breast tomosynthesis takes multiple images of the entire breast – it allows seeing through different layers of breast tissue and examining areas of concern from all possible angles.

Tomosynthesis 3-D

During digital tomosynthesis the breast is positioned the same way it is in a conventional mammogram, but only a little pressure is applied — just enough to keep the breast in a stable position during the procedure. The X-ray tube moves in an arc around the breast while 11 images are taken during 7-10 seconds examination (multiple X-ray pictures of each breast from many angles). Then the information is sent to a computer, where it is assembled to produce clear, highly focused 3-dimensional images throughout the breast.


Most important benefits of tomosynthesis include the following:

  • Very early breast cancer detection – even small sizes which are not detectable during digital mammography;
  • This method provides greater accuracy in pinpointing size, shape and location of breast tumors and abnormalities;
  • Thanks to tomosynthesis precise diagnosis, fewer unnecessary biopsies and/or additional tests are needed;
  • Increased possibility to detect multiple breast tumors, which occur in 15% of breast cancer cases;
  • Precise and clear images in cases of dense breast tissue.


During last decade the breast tomosynthesis combined with digital mammography is becoming a routine standard protocol for all screening mammograms.

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