JAMA Study Showcases the Benefits of 3-D Mammography
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The case for the importance and relevance of mammograms has had its battles in 2014. The CNBSS announcement sought to prove that mammograms do not result in better detection and essentially, do not save lives. Those working in women’s health were up in arms about this study, claiming it as being dangerous and working to discredit it. With an announcement made yesterday by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the pro-mammogram field has secured a victory.
3-D mammography, known in the medical field as breast tomosynthesis, was the focus of a study released on June 24, 2014 in JAMA. The results of the study showed that using 3-D mammography resulted in a 15% reduction in recall rates and a 41% increase in the detection of potentially lethal cancers. These results are certainly positive, especially as millions of women will be having the mammograms and/or digital breast tomosynthesis this year.
The benefits of tomosynthesis do not come without issues. First off, the machines are expensive upfront costs for facilities. The New York Times article about the study estimated the tomosynthesis machines to cost about $500,000—almost double the cost of digital mammography machines. Reimbursement is an issue in some facilities—both in terms of the technology and from insurance companies since tomosynthesis exams are new to women’s health initiatives.
Second, the images captured by 3-D mammography machines create bigger volumes of data since the file size of a 3-D image is exponentially larger than a 2-D one. This creates the need for more storage space, resulting in higher IT costs for the facility.
Third, 3-D mammography images are creating a bottle-neck in terms of efficiency in reading and analyzing the exams. There is more substance to study and analyze in a tomosynthesis exam, so initially it takes longer for the radiologist to read and report the exam. Workstations with dedicated tools for tomosynthesis are helping to reduce this reading time.
Even with these three issues, the benefits that 3-D mammography provides to the patients outweighs each one. Providing quality care to the patient should always be the number-one priority for medical professionals. If it takes more expensive equipment, then the facility should make the investment because the benefits has the potential to save lives. Giving that up to save money and time is not worth the risk.