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3D Mammography finds more invasive cancers and reduces unnecessary recalls


Donna Plecha, M.D., of University Hospitals Case Medical Center co-authored largest 3D study to date of nearly half a million women, published in JAMA

3D Mammography finds significantly more invasive cancers and reduces unnecessary recalls, according to a large, retrospective study published in June 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study features data from University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center.

The study, the largest of its kind, focused on the impact of 3D mammography at a diverse range of sites across the U.S, looking at nearly half a million mammograms at 13 sites.

Key Findings:

  • 41% increase in invasive cancer detected with 3D mammography
  • 15% decrease in unnecessary recalls for false alarms
  • A 29% increase in the detection of all breast cancers

"This study confirms what we already know: 3D mammography finds more of the invasive, harmful cancers we want found and saves women the anxiety and cost of having additional exams for what turns out to be a false alarm," said the study's co-author Donna Plecha, MD, Director of Breast Imaging at UH Case Medical Center. "We already knew that breast screening saves lives and this study provides us with firm data that 3D mammography is a better test for detecting breast cancer early when it is treatable."

Hologic 3D mammography (breast tomosynthesis) was used exclusively in the study, as they are the only FDA-approved 3D mammography manufacturer. University Hospitals Case Medical Center was involved in the initial research on tomosynthesis and has offered 3D mammography since 2011.

The system combines advanced digital mammography and tomosynthesis-generated images to provide a more detailed, highly focused picture of the breast. These images are then used to produce a series of one-millimeter thick slices that can be viewed as a 3D reconstruction of the breast. Women see little difference between a conventional 2D mammogram and a 3D mammogram. The exam takes just a few seconds longer and the positioning is the same. The real difference is in the information available to the doctor.

The technology gives radiologists the ability to identify and characterize individual breast structures and clearly see features which might be obscured in a traditional 2D mammogram by overlapping normal breast anatomy that may mimic or mask a tumor. Dense tissue and overlapping tissue structures may lead to false positive or false negative results with standard mammography.

Breast cancer is a significant health problem and statistics indicate that one in eight women will develop the disease in her lifetime. The stage at which the cancer is discovered influences a woman's chance of survival and annual mammography after the age of 40 enables physicians to identify the smallest abnormalities. In fact, when breast cancer is detected early and confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 97 percent.

"Breast cancers caught in the initial stages by mammography are more likely to be cured and are less likely to require chemotherapy or as extensive surgery," said Dr. Plecha, who is also Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "This study shows that 3D mammography is a more effective screening tool, and we must make it accessible to all women."


The study, led by Dr. Sarah Friedewald at Advocate Lutheran Hospital in Park Ridge, Il, was published in advance of print on the JAMA website: .

About University Hospitals

University Hospitals, the second largest employer in Northeast Ohio with 25,000 employees, serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of 12 hospitals, 26 outpatient centers and primary care physician offices in 16 counties. At the core of our $3.5 billion health system is University Hospitals Case Medical Center, one of only 18 hospitals in the country to have been named to U.S. News & World Report's most exclusive rankings list: the Best Hospitals 2013-14 Honor Roll. The primary affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, UH Case Medical Center is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research centers of excellence in the nation, including cancer, pediatrics, women's health, orthopaedics, radiology, neuroscience, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, digestive health, transplantation and genetics. Its main campus includes UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children's hospitals in the nation; UH MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; and UH Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University. For more information, go to

Alicia Reale | Eurek Alert!

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