Monday, March 7, 2011

Massachusetts General Hospital is first in the nation to do mammography screening using 3D breast tomosynthesis

The Breast Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) today welcomes its first patient to undergo three-dimensional (3D) breast tomosynthesis screening.  Also known as 3D mammography, this technology promises to improve cancer detection and reduce false positives.

Approved by the FDA February 11, 2011, breast tomosynthesis – a new imaging technology pioneered by the MGH Breast Imaging Program under the leadership of Elizabeth Rafferty, MD, director of Breast Imaging at MGH – produces a 3D image of the breast and gives doctors a clearer view through the overlapping structures of breast tissue.  “Like flipping through the pages of a book, the radiologist is able to look at one page at a time instead of seeing the whole breast reduced to a single frame, as is the case with standard mammography,” says Rafferty.  This more comprehensive view increases the ability to detect and diagnose small cancers.  In addition, tomosynthesis can help radiologists rule out abnormalities that may have looked suspicious in a 2D mammogram, reducing the need to call women back for additional imaging or biopsies. 

The technology, Hologic’s Selenia Dimensions system, improves images by digitally combining multiple X-rays to reduce distortion created by tissue overlap or density.  As a result, the radiologist is able to pinpoint the size, shape and exact location of a lump or tumor; the image is not flattened like a standard mammogram.  Tomosynthesis also screens the entire breast, not just the problem area.  This is significant because 15 percent of women with a cancer in their breast also have another cancer in the same or other breast.

3D mammography is now available to women who need their annual screening mammogram and for diagnostic uses. The test is performed at the same time as a conventional mammogram on the same scanner.  “After more than 11 years of research behind it, we are excited to now offer this option to our patients, with the certainty that we will be able to more accurately screen for and detect potential breast cancers and other abnormalities,” says Rafferty.

To learn more about breast tomosynthesis please visit:

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1811, Massachusetts General Hospital is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $600 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine.

Donita Boddie, 617 724-5627,

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