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3D Mammography at Texas Health Dallas Could Lead to ‘Next Great Advance’ In Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Clinical Trial
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DALLAS — Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas has begun a clinical trial to test whether a new technology in breast imaging, 3D digital mammography, can accurately detect breast cancers.

Standard mammography is a two-dimensional X-ray of the breast, relying on the contrast of tumors and adjacent normal breast tissue. However, in women with dense breast tissue, deadly tumors can hide in the shadows of overlapping tissue.

A new imaging technology, called breast tomosynthesis, removes tissue overlap by taking pictures of the breast in layers, generating 15 discrete images of the breast from different angles. The computer system uses these images to mathematically create a tomogram, showing the tissue as three-dimensional layers.

Katherine Hall, M.D., is medical director of the Texas Health Dallas Women’s Diagnostic and Breast Center.

Katherine Hall, M.D.

Click image to download hi-res file

“Traditional 2D mammography, which became widely popular in the 1980s, has been shown to save lives from breast cancer. But we know it’s not perfect, especially in women with dense breast tissue,” said Dr. Katherine Hall, a radiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas and medical director of the hospital’s Women’s Diagnostic and Breast Center.

According to Texas Health Dallas researchers, about one in four women over 40 have dense breasts; some estimates are even higher, suggesting that up to half of women younger than age 50 and a third of women over 50 might have dense breasts.

And some studies suggest that women with dense breast tissue are at higher risk of developing breast cancer, said Dr. Kandice Kilbride, a breast surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas.

“Currently, breast MRI is the gold standard for evaluating women with suspected cases of breast cancer or with a very high risk for the disease,” Kilbride said. “A woman with dense breast tissue is not automatically a candidate for breast MRI, according to national guidelines. So a technology to more efficiently and effectively image dense tissue is greatly needed. We’re trying to determine if a new generation of breast imaging can do the job of an MRI for a much larger group of women.

“The goal is simple: to find a better way to check for breast cancer in women with breasts too dense for today’s mammograms,” she said.

Kandice Kilbride is a breast surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas.

Kandice Kilbride, M.D., performs surgery on a patient at Texas Health
Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Click image to download hi-res file

Texas Health Dallas was one of the first medical centers in the region to offer breast MRI to patients with suspected cases of breast cancer or with elevated risk factors. But this technology as a screening tool is limited to those women at highest risk for the disease, according to guidelines of the American Cancer Society.

The Texas Health Dallas researchers are investigating whether breast tomosynthesis is as effective as MRI in detecting breast cancer in high-risk women. If this proves true, this technology may one day be available to a broader range of women, including those with dense breasts.

“Seeing through dense breast tissue to look for cancers deep inside the breast is a hurdle that 3D mammography may be able to overcome,” Hall said. “We’re excited to see what our research will reveal.”

A tomogram, or 3D mammogram, takes less than a minute. Today, the technology is only available through enrollment in a clinical trial at Texas Health Dallas or one of a handful of other medical centers around the country.

“We hope that through this research we're able to one day provide improved breast cancer diagnostics to women in North Texas and beyond," Kilbride said. “There have been incremental improvements in breast imaging over the years, but this could be a big jump forward in the fight against breast cancer if it proves effective.”

This study is limited to those women at highest risk of breast cancer, including those with a known genetic abnormality, personal history of breast cancer, or multiple family members with breast cancer. For more information about the tomosynthesis clinical trial or to inquire about participating in the study, call 214-345-8324.

“Even with improved technologies, we’re still finding some cancers later than we would like,” Kilbride said. “We know that early detection is directly related to improved outcomes. Hopefully this technology will help us find cancers earlier and save lives.”

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 866-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. US News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit


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