State-of-the-Art Scanning

June 1, 2006

A new breast scanner developed by scientists at Duke Medical Center will dramatically improve the ability to visualize small tumors, reduce radiation exposure to one-tenth that of normal mammograms, and cause less discomfort to women.

The new scanner uses computed tomography (CT), a sophisticated form of X-ray imaging. Unlike traditional mammograms, which provide only two-dimensional images and compress the breast, the new scanner rotates around the breast to obtain a complete, three-dimensional image.

Duke's new CT scanner has detected lesions as small as five millimeters in diameter in artificial-breast models and in cadavers. Mammograms typically are able to detect soft tissue lesions some one centimeter in diameter--about the size of a marble--although they can detect far smaller micro-calcifications, which could be indicators of disease.

The Duke team, which presented the results of its tests at the annual Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers' medical-imaging meeting in February, plans to begin testing the device on women within two years and is in the process of developing a start-up company to commercialize the device, says Martin Tornai, an associate professor of radiology and biomedical engineering who developed the scanner.