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Lindfors noted that breast CT modifications now in progress may improve the prototype machine's ability to scan very large breasts and to detect lower-density abnormalities.
"Initial impressions were favorable with respect to breast CT," she said. "However, it is apparent that refinements in patient positioning and improvements in viewing techniques and radiologist training will be required to optimally generate and interpret the breast CT image data."
If the current trial confirms that breast CT does as well as mammography, the next step will be a larger trial comparing the two technologies head to head. UC Davis researchers hope to show that breast CT can detect smaller tumors than mammography.
Patients in the current Phase II trial are also asked to compare the comfort of breast CT and mammography. The first 21 patients gave breast CT an average score of 8. (A score of 1 indicates breast CT is "much worse" than mammography and 10 indicates breast CT is "much more comfortable").
A mammogram is an X-ray taken through all the layers of the breast at once. The breast CT prototype developed at UC Davis takes images of virtual "slices" of the breast - about 300 images per breast. Computers then assemble these images into highly detailed, 3-D pictures.