The tomosynthesis mammography systems are starting to gain popularity – also in the used medical equipment market.
And in this blog post, you will learn all about them.
- What is tomosynthesis?
- The differences between tomography and conventional mammography machines
- What are the advantages of mammography machines with tomosynthesis?
- What are the disadvantages of tomosynthesis mammography?
So this may help you decide whether to get a conventional mammography machine or one with tomosynthesis.
Let us begin.
What is a Tomosynthesis Mammogram?
So, first of all, what is tomosynthesis?
Tomosynthesis serves an early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, when it is most treatable.
It is a special type of mammography (breast imaging) that uses low dose X-rays obtained at different angles and computer reconstructions to produce three-dimensional images of the breast.
Therefore, tomosynthesis can be also called 3D mammography or digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT).
What Are the Differences between Conventional and Tomosynthesis Mammography?
Mammography and tomosynthesis are both breast imaging techniques that are used to detect symptoms of breast cancer or other changes in the breat tissue.
The type of images regular mammo and tomosynthesis mammo obtain are different.
While breast tomosynthesis can acquire both 2D and 3D images, conventional mammography produces only two-dimensional images.
Meaning that it acquires two X-rays of the breast, top to bottom and side to side.
This happens while the system compresses the tissue between the clear plastic paddle and imaging detector.
Even though you need the compression, it may cause overlapping of breast tissue.
This may hide some of the abnormal tissues, or, on the other hand, superimposed normal tissues may appear abnormal.
To this day, mammography is the best tool for breast cancer screening.
However, it may not detect all breast cancer. And thus, the tomosynthesis option has been developed.
The tomosynthesis technology overcomes some of the shortcomings of conventional mammography and it uses the same imaging machine as a mammogram.
However, tomosynthesis is not yet available in all medical imaging facilities and on all mammography devices.
Nevertheless, there are already mammography machines available on the secondary market with the tomosynthesis option, such as GE Senographe Essential, Hologic Selenia, or Siemens Mammomat Inspiration.
During tomosynthesis mammography, the breast is placed and compressed in the same way as in conventional mammography.
However, the X-ray tube moves circularly around the compressed breast, capturing several images of each breast from different angles.
This imaging takes less than 10 seconds.
The information acquired is sent to a computer that produces a focused three-dimensional image of the breast.
The three-dimensional imaging helps minimize the tissue overlap that can hide cancer, or can make it hard to distinguish normal overlapping breast tissue from tumors.
What Are the Advantages of Mammography Machines with Tomosynthesis?
Overall, tomosynthesis is considered to be a more advanced and detailed imaging technique than a conventional mammogram.
Firstly, since tomosynthesis mammography can look at multiple breast layers in a 3D image, it allows this method to overcome some of the limitations that conventional mammograms have, since a mammogram can only take 2D images.
Furthermore, 3D imaging enables the practitioner to see small lesions and other signs of breast cancer earlier than the conventional mammogram.
Another benefit of tomosynthesis is that it can detect breast cancer before many women have any symptoms (such as skin changes, nipple discharge, pain in the breast, etc.)
Moreover, it helps reduce false positive findings that regular mammograms can provide.
And it is more accurate than a mammogram, even when screening women with dense breasts.
It has a better accuracy in determining the size, shape as well as the location of breast abnormalities.
Additionally, in the tomosynthesis mammography, there is a higher probability of detecting multiple breast tumors.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Using Tomosynthesis Mammography?
There are a few downsides of using tomosynthesis instead of a traditional mammogram.
With more images of each breast, there is more exposure to radiation. Nevertheless, the radiation is minimal, and it remains within safe radiation levels for FDA approved mammography images.
In addition, the radiation leaves the body shortly after the examination.
Furthermore, the arc of movement of the X-ray tube can vary, which may cause variations in the images. You can also expect that tomosynthesis mammos are going to be more expensive than regular mammos.
Moreover, the maintenance costs may be higher due to the bigger complexity of these systems.
Lastly, as tomosynthesis is still a relatively new procedure, not all mammography facilities and doctors may be familiar with it.
As you can see, tomosynthesis mammos have a few drawbacks. And if, for example, your budget is llimited or your experience with these machines is limited, you will be more than happy with a regular mammo system.
Regular mammography machines are powerful and still are the standard in mammography.
As we mentioned at the beginning, tomosynthesis mammograms are becoming increasingly popular in the secondary medical equipment market.
So, what are the advantages of mammography machines with tomosynthesis?
For example, 3D imaging, better results when screening dense breast, earlier detection of breast cancer with symptoms. Additionally, it is able to detect breast cancer in women without symptoms.
What about the disadvantages of mammography machines with tomosynthesis?
The breast is exposed to more radiation during tomosynthesis, though it remains within safe radiation levels.
Mammography machines with tomosynthesis are more expensive and due to their higher complexity, they may come with higher maintenance cost. And because tomosynthesis is still quite new, not all practitioners may have an experience working with it.
Finally, it is important to remember that tomosynthesis is a special function. Apart from additional software, the system also needs additional hardware that cannot be easily added to the mammo, or cannot be added at all.
Hence, you need to think twice before your mammo purchase as you may not be able to add the tomosynthesis function later.
Below, you can see an easy overview showing the pros and cons of conventional and tomosynthesis mammography.
If you are interested in other blog posts about mammography machines, you can read:
- The pros and cons of analog and digital mammos
- How much does a mammogram machine cost and how to decide which one to get?
Let us know if there are any other topics regarding mammography systems that you’d like us to cover.
And if you have any questions regarding mammogram machine costs, feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at +45 96 886 500. We are always ready to help.