Ottawa

Ottawa Hospital tests 3D mammograms for early detection of breast cancer

The Ottawa Hospital Breast Health Centre and Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre have teamed up to test new 3D technology to see if, combined with regular mammograms, it will improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis and lead to faster treatment and fewer false alarms.

The better mammogram: 3D technology promises earlier detection, greater accuracy and fewer false alarms

Dr. Jean Seely says 3D mammograms are more accurate than 2D mammograms and will cut down the false test results that cause so much anxiety for women. 0:40

Ottawa Hospital's Breast Health Centre is undertaking a two-year study to determine if new 3D mammography technology will improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis, leading to earlier treatment and fewer false positives. 

Dr. Jean Seely, director of breast imaging at the Ottawa Hospital, said the 3D technology allows for a more thorough examination of breast tissue.

"It is increasing the accuracy, where they're finding more cancers — up to 30 per cent more cancers," said Seely. 

"And these are the cancers that count. They're the invasive cancers, the ones that we know can cause significant harm." 

Improving early detection

The new digital process allows doctors to see a series of cross-sections of the breast assembled as a three-dimensional model, rather than a single two-dimensional snapshot.

The enhanced screening takes 30 seconds longer per patient when combined with a regular mammogram. 

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 40 and 50.

Dugald Seely, a naturopathic doctor with the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre, examined new 3D mammogram technology at the Breast Health Centre.

At the Ottawa Hospital, there are approximately 1,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed every year. 

Early detection greatly improves the chances of survival, Seely said.

She added the new technology, combined with regular 2D mammograms, could lead to earlier detection of abnormalities in the breast.

Reducing 'false positives'

Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital Breast Health Centre have teamed up with the the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Center (OICC) to be part of what's called the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial.

The use of 3D mammograms will also result in fewer "false positives," errors that create undue anxiety in women who must be then be re-tested and await results, according to OICC director Dugald Seely.

"False positives really do create anxiety that is debilitating for women," said Seely. "So if we can reduce those false alarms, that is fantastic."

The Breast Health Centre is one of three Canadian clinical trial sites, along with Toronto and Vancouver that will test the 3D technology.

 The Ottawa study aims to enroll 2,000 women, who will undergo random testing for two years, followed by two years of follow up by researchers. 

You can watch the 3D mammogram procedure in this video provided by the Ottawa Hospital. (Video has no sound)

The Ottawa Hospital Breast Health Centre is hoping 2,000 women will take part in study to assess effectivenss of '3D' digital tomosynthesis technology in early detection of cancer. 0:39

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Sandra Abma

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Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at sandra.abma@cbc.ca.