Computed tomography, sometimes called "CAT scanning," is used every day to scan brains, lungs, abdomens and pelvises. But imaging experts long ago dismissed CT as impractical for breast cancer screening, assuming it would require too much radiation.
Boone and his colleagues decided to revisit the issue, recognizing that radiation-dose estimates for breast CT were based on use of standard CT machines, which would require the breast and entire chest to be scanned together. When Boone recalculated radiation doses based on scanning the breast alone, he found that CT imaging would use no more radiation than mammography.
Scientists at the University of Rochester, the University of Massachusetts, and Duke University are also developing breast CT scanners, but Boone's is the first to have reached clinical testing.
"A number of talented scientists around the country are working on the development of this new tool, and this friendly competition keeps us all working that much harder to produce results," Boone said.
For now, women should continue to get mammograms as recommended by their physicians.
"Although the breast CT images are interesting, mammography is the currently accepted gold standard for breast cancer screening, and women should continue to get their annual mammograms," radiologist Lindfors emphasized.
"Even if our best hopes are realized, breast CT will not be commercially available for at least five years, and probably longer. Don't put off getting mammograms, because it will take some time to develop this newer technology," she said.