The future of breast cancer screening

21 June 2012

In Australia over 500,000 women undergo breast cancer screening using two dimensional x-ray mammography each year. While existing screening programs have been effective in boosting early detection rates, new technologies are increasingly showing promise.

The University of Sydney is collaborating with the Sydney Breast Clinic and Hologic to lead research into the effectiveness of new screening technologies.

"Unfortunately some limitations exist with mammography, with sensitivity leaving some room for improvement' says Patrick Brennan, Professor of Diagnostic Imaging and project lead from the Faculty of Health Sciences. "Mammograms are very sensitive to factors such as breast density and it is clear that in some circumstances a more sensitive and specific tool is needed."

The Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Unit (DBT) recently opened at the Sydney Breast Clinic under the leadership of Professor Mary Rickard may be the answer.

Chief Radiologist Professor Mary Rickard with Professor Patrick Brennan at the Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Launch
Chief Radiologist Professor Mary Rickard with Professor Patrick Brennan at the Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Launch


The multiple angled DBT images are reconstructed using advanced computer technology to create sequential slices of breast tissue so that accurate three dimensional pictures of the breast can be displayed. Under funding from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences is partnering with Sydney Breast Clinic to undertake a two-year study to compare the efficacy of DBT with existing mammography screening.

 "With their permission and ethics approval we will be recruiting women who pass through the clinic to take part in this study and undergo both conventional mammography and DBT examinations,' says Professor Brennan.

"Any suspicious mammographic or clinical lesions will immediately undergo triple comprehensive assessment, including ultrasound and needle biopsy, so ground truth will be available."

The DBT at Sydney Breast Clinic is one of only a handful of such units in Australia.

 "It's placement in Sydney's busiest breast imaging clinic presents an unparalleled opportunity for us to conduct a comprehensive analysis of this technology and establish its usefulness as a symptomatic and screening mammographic tool within Australia and beyond."


Contact: Michelle Blowes, Public Affairs Manager (Health Sciences)

Phone: 02 9036 7486

Email: 1819311e3035282976143c570f56293432230a0c06214608520f661b42