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Hoag hospital first in state to offer 3D mammogram

The hospital anticipates the technology will bring more patients to Hoag and Orange County.

By Elaine MurphyPublished: September 22, 2011 10:30 AM

A revolutionary new breast cancer screening technology has arrived at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach. The Hoag Breast Care Center is the first facility in California, and one of only a handful in the country, to offer 3D digital breast tomosynthesis for breast cancer screening.

Hoag currently has one tomosynthesis machine in its Newport Beach hospital, which can scan 50 patients per day, and plans to install another machine of equal capacity in its Irvine location by the end of the year. Dr. Gary Levine, director of breast imaging at the Hoag Breast Care Center, told OC Metro he expects that Hoag’s use of tomosynthesis will encourage other local breast centers to implement the technology, bringing more patients to Hoag and Orange County.

Levine said the new 3D mammography-screening technique is superior to the current 2D technology, and is especially beneficial in patients with dense breast tissue, whose cancer risk is elevated. The advent of digital breast tomosynthesis increases the early detection rate and allows radiologists to spot very small tumors.

"It's a major milestone to be the first breast center in California to provide patients with digital breast tomosynthesis," said Levine. "At Hoag, we have been involved with the development and testing of tomosynthesis since 2009. … Tomosynthesis will allow us to discover more early-stage breast cancers, and early detection translates to lives saved."

While the breast cancer mortality rate has dropped by half in the past four decades, fatalities cannot be eliminated, due to limitations in current 2D mammography technology, according to a statement made yesterday at a Hoag press conference. The hospital said 2D mammograms are effective in patients with fatty breast tissue but not in those with dense tissue. Fifteen to 20 percent of breast cancers are in patients with dense tissue, making the technology especially beneficial. About 75 percent of women in their 40s have dense breast tissue, with this figure declining to 42 percent of women in their sixties.

Cancers as large as 5 centimeters in diameter can go undetected, because they are nearly impossible to see on a 2D mammogram, but tomosynthesis enables doctors to identify cancerous masses as small as 2 millimeters, including pre-cancerous nodules. By scanning 3D tomosynthesis images, physicians can more easily identify the presence of cancer.

All Hoag patients can request tomosynthesis at no additional cost, but women with dense tissue will benefit the most from this technology. Tomosynthesis is not automatically used in all mammograms because, while it is superior to 2D technology, the difference is slight in patients with fatty breast tissue.

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