This technology also allows radiologists to get a picture of the entire breast volume in a slice-by-slice view. "It certainly helps, because you're seeing all of the tissue in depth," Getty explained. The capacity of mammography to detect problems in dense breasts is not an issue with the stereoscopic digital equipment because it "doesn't look as dense, because tissue is being spread out in depth," he said.
A stereoscopic mammogram image works on principles similar to the old Viewmaster slide viewers used by children, Getty explained. Each of two images inserted in the Viewmaster were channeled to a different eye, and the brain's "visual cortex -- the magician in all this -- then combines the two images, artificially recreating what your two eyes normally create when you walk around in a three-dimensional world," Getty said. Similarly, the viewing monitor for stereo mammography merges two distinct images to create a 3-D look at tissue.
Experts say stereo mammography does show promise, but more work is needed.
"Stereo mammography is a step in the right direction, but it is not a breakthrough," said Dr. David Bluemke, a professor of radiology and medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore. "True 3-D tomographic imaging of the breast is ultimately needed." By giving radiologist a view of slices through the breast, 3-D tomography would allow radiologist to see lesions that are otherwise obscured by being superimposed on normal breast tissue, he explained.
Stereoscopic digital mammography "seems very promising," added Dr. Kristin Byrne, the chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It would make mammography that much better."
With current technology, the problem of calling back a woman whose breasts show a suspicious area is that radiologists often can't find that same suspicious tissue in a second view, so the woman has to follow-up with further monitoring in
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