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BreastScreen Victoria Tomosynthesis in Screening Trial

New digital 3D-mammography technology that may improve breast cancer detection is the subject of a landmark Australian trial within the BreastScreen Victoria screening program.

Five-thousand Victorian women who attend the Maroondah BreastScreen clinic at Eastern Health for regular screening, will participate in the Australian-first trial of tomosynthesis, a three-dimensional (3D) mammography technology.

While standard 2D-mammography captures a single x-ray image of the breast, tomosynthesis or, 3D-mammography, captures multiple images to create a visual reconstruction.

The BreastScreen Victoria Tomosynthesis in Screening Trial will commence in the second half of 2017.

You can read our media release here.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What is Tomosynthesis?

Breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) is a new digital mammography technology that is in the testing and clinical evaluation stages for its possible benefits in screening and assessment.

Tomosynthesis uses a modified digital mammography unit to create 3D images of the breast.

Currently, BreastScreen Australia uses 2D (two-view) digital mammography as the primary test to screen women for breast cancer.

  • How is the trial designed and what are the primary goals?

The BreastScreen Victoria Tomosynthesis in Screening Trial is a pilot. This means that it’s the first step taken to obtain the first lot of data or information required in order to define the next step, which may be a much larger trial or plan to evaluate it further in several screening services.

It is a one-armed trial, meaning it will gather much-needed information on whether 3D screening ‘works’ in the BreastScreen Australia setting.

This includes information on:

a.    Feasibility. So can we get this method up and running or, are there implementation problems? Will it slow down reading too much? Etc.

b.    Screening detection measures (breast cancer detection, recall rates – the latter includes recall for false alarms). While there is no comparison arm for the pilot trial, the results will be reported to BreastScreen Victoria in the context of existing information on screening detection measures from the most recent years of the program.

  • Have any similar trials been conducted overseas and what were the findings?

Much larger studies have been conducted overseas, including Europe and the USA. They’ve concluded that 3D-mammography detects more cancers than 2D (and in some cases reduced false alarms). 

  • How will women at other BSV sites be affected by the trial?

There will be no impact on women screening at other BSV sites with the trial only taking place at the Maroondah site.

  • How will women attending Maroondah BreastScreen be selected to participate?

Approximately 50% of women attending Maroondah BreastScreen will be selected to participate in the BreastScreen Victoria Tomosynthesis in Screening Trial by chance over the time of the trial. Having an appointment at the site in no way guarantees a woman will be screened using Tomosynthesis.

  • Will I be able to tell if I am having Tomosynthesis?

It is unlikely that women will notice any difference from their usual mammogram.

  • What will be the impact on reading times and the results to women?

Although 3D-mammography images take longer to read – and this will be investigated as part of the study - the number of clients having 3D-mammography is only a small percentage of reading (13%) undertaken for Maroondah BreastScreen, so minimal impact is expected.

  • What is the radiation dose for Tomosynthesis?

3D-mammography results in a slightly higher dose of radiation, when compared to 2D-mammography, due to the need for multiple images. However the radiation exposure is safely below the BreastScreen Australia National Accreditation Standards guidelines and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) guidelines.

  • How long will the trial run for?

The trial requires results for 5000 women which will take several months.

  • Why is BreastScreen Victoria involved?

BreastScreen Victoria consistently investigates new technologies and its evidence base to provide the best-possible service to women.

  • Can a woman choose not to participate in the trial?

Yes. Women can tell the receptionist upon arrival if they do not wish to participate in the BreastScreen Victoria Tomosynthesis in Screening Trial. Those women will receive the standard 2D mammogram.