Encinitas, Calif. – San Diegans now have access to a new, highly advanced breast cancer diagnostic tool that improves the clarity and reliability of test results, with Scripps Health’s recent acquisition of 3-D digital breast tomosynthesis technology.
Scripps recently began using the software with patients at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas and plans to expand it to more of its facilities. Scripps is San Diego County’s only health care provider to offer 3-D mammography technology, which was approved by the FDA in February 2011. In California, only four other health care facilities currently offer this technology.
Used with existing digital mammography equipment, the breast tomosynthesis software utilizes high-powered computing to convert digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers, which creates a 3-D reconstruction of the breast. The 3-D model allows the physician to examine breast tissue 1 millimeter at a time.
This approach stands in contrast to the flat images produced by traditional 2-D digital mammography, which generates overlapping images that can appear cloudy. Overlapping can cause problems such as obscuring signs of cancer, or mimicking signs of a tumor where none exists.
“When it comes to breast imaging, less tissue overlap translates into clearer images of the patient’s tissue, which allows for a more definitive diagnosis,” said Dr. Kris Van Lom, chairman of the department of radiology at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. “Having a more reliable view of the breast tissue will help us be more effective in discovering early-stage breast cancers, while in some cases reducing the number of ‘false positives’ and the need for additional tests or biopsies.”
Any patient requiring a breast exam can benefit from breast tomosynthesis. The technology is being made available to all breast imaging patients at Scripps Encinitas, and educational materials are provided to all patients in advance.
A tomosynthesis exam is very similar to a traditional digital mammogram in both time and format. The technologist positions the patient, compresses the breast under a paddle and takes images from different angles. During the tomosynthesis portion of the exam, the X-ray arm of the mammography machine makes a quick arc over the breast, taking a series of breast images at a number of angles.
In the United States, breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The stage at which breast cancer is detected influences a woman’s chance of survival. If found and treated early while still localized in the breast, the 10-year survival rate for breast cancer is greater than 90 percent.
By June 2012, Scripps also plans to have tomosynthesis technology available for patients at Scripps Polster Breast Care Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.
The addition of digital breast tomosynthesis is the latest example of technological advances in cancer care at Scripps. Currently under construction are the Scripps Proton Therapy Center (expected to open in April 2013) and the Scripps Radiation Treatment Center (expected to open in August 2012), both of which will featuring the latest technology for patient care.
Cancer care at Scripps is provided through Scripps Cancer Center, a nationally recognized leader in cancer care, providing comprehensive care at Scripps’ four hospitals and various Scripps Clinic locations. With more than 300 affiliated physicians, Scripps Cancer Center seeks to provide the best possible treatment and cutting-edge research trials for patients by coordinating medical expertise in the areas of clinical cancer care, community outreach and clinical, translational and basic research.
Scripps is the only cancer care provider in San Diego to earn network accreditation from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. Scripps Polster Breast Care Center at Scripps La Jolla and the Breast Care Center at Scripps Green Hospital have earned accreditation from the American College of Surgeons’ National Accreditation Program for Breast Cancer Centers (NAPBC). The Breast Care Center at Scripps Green Hospital has also earned accreditation in radiation therapy from the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) and the American College of Radiology (ACR).