9,800 women aged 49 and below are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Diagnoses for these young women is often extremely difficult as their breast tissue is still quite dense and therefore conventional mammograms can often miss key indicators or misinterpret some images which can result in further tests and added anxiety for these women.
In Prevent Breast Cancer’s work to look at the prediction of breast cancer, we must look at genetics and help women who may have inherited the genes that increase their risk in developing breast cancer. Family inheritance is of great significance in this research project as many of them women aged 40-49 who are or will be receiving annual mammograms, will be attending these screenings due to their increased chances of developing the disease.
Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) is a new mammography technique that will reduce misinterpretations and provide greater accuracy and therefore fewer false positives for these women. The technology creates a 3D image (in comparison to current 2D imagery) and several studies suggest that DBT has a higher recognition of cancer. Research is required to examine the results of DBT screening in women aged 40-49 which, if positive, would allow oncology departments to deliver this method and provide women with an improved accuracy reading from their mammograms.
DBT works by taking numerous 3D low dose x-rays of the breast tissue and examining these for any abnormalities. Conventional mammography takes a 2D image that may not detect cancer, which therefore leaves it to develop further, or if the image is not very clear, will require the patient to come back for further testing, causing undue stress and anxiety.
The FHTomo study will be carried out between The Nightingale Centre in Manchester and King’s College Hospital, London where women aged 40-49 who are undergoing annual mammograms (or are due to undergo them) are recruited to provide essential data.
The lead researcher for this research project is Dr Anthony James Maxwell, who brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience and is the ideal candidate to be leading this revolutionary research. His thirteen years as a Consultant Radiologist at Royal Bolton Hospital followed by his current role as Consultant Breast Radiologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Imaging at University Hospital of South Manchester have allowed him to be actively involved in how mammograms have been conducted and how the information they gather can be improved.
There will be two groups of women. The first group will receive DBT and a conventional mammogram at their first appointment and just a conventional mammogram at their second appointment. For the second group they will receive a regular mammogram at their first appointment and then DBT and another regular mammogram at the second appointment. This will allow the team to assess the number of women who are called back after their first appointment dependent on the form of screening they receive. A reduction in the number who are called back due to the higher accuracy of DBT will highlight the need for this type of mammography in the cancer field.
The project aims to identify breast cancer in women aged 40-49 at as early a stage as possible to ensure they receive an effective and tailored cancer treatment plan. The long-term impact of this area of the work would mean saving the lives of so many women whose cancer would have been missed in the first instance.
The project also aims to clearly show when cancer is not present in the breast, so that oncologists are better informed and patients are not recalled for further investigative tests and need not endure added stress and anxiety.