According to World Health Organization (WHO) there were 8.2 million deaths due to cancer in 2012, out of which 521,000 people succumbed to breast cancer alone. A number of studies indicate that the US leads the world in the number of women affected with breast cancer, and on an average, one woman dies every 15 minutes.
Traditional 2D Mammography – hailed a ground-breaking technology – has helped in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, but it is not without its limitations. There is an increased likelihood that many cancers may get missed because of the two-dimensional nature of the image.
However, there is good news – and it comes in the form of 3D mammography. Gaining increased acceptance in the medical fraternity, 3D mammography – also referred to as digital mammography with tomosynthesis – involves taking low-dose X-rays around the breast. These multiple exposures are then combined into a 3D photograph, allowing doctors to see the breast layer by layer. This helps not only to detect breast cancer in its initial stages, but also reduces false alarms and the need for additional tests.
Many medical practitioners say 3D mammography has given them the freedom to examine the breast and its structure, akin to the anatomy itself. The 3D images of the breast can be viewed from any orientation and thereby nearly eliminating any chance of not finding hidden tissue, unlike in a 2D image.
In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first X-ray mammography device for breast cancer screening and diagnosis, and today, leading hospitals in the US and across the world are already offering 3D mammography facilities to patients. The global mammography market is projected to reach $2.8 billion by 2020.
However, the cutting-edge technology does come with its set of drawbacks – the first being the cost to the patient. 3D Mammography is expensive, and sometimes, prohibitively so. It is also not widely available, especially in India. That said, the technology is at its infancy and has massive potential as far as early detection and treatment of cancer is concerned.
Another interesting development in the fight against breast cancer is 3D printing. A large number of organizations are trying to reconstruct breast cancer tissue so as to enable quicker drug testing and identify better treatments. If successful, this will eliminate the need for animal or even human testing and erase any conflict of ethics or rights.
Do tell us your thoughts about the adoption of this technology in tackling a widespread health risk such as breast cancer.