LONDON, ONT. -- Researchers are investigating digital breast tomosynthesis, a type of 3D imaging, to see if it’s better at detecting breast tissue abnormalities than the 2D mammography regularly used today.

The study is being conducted by Lawson Health Research Institute.

Current practice uses digital 2D mammogram, which uses two x-ray images of the breast, one from top-to-bottom and another from side-to-side at an angle.

This technology is limited by the overlapping breast tissue, which occurs due to the required compression of the breast, and can leave some breast abnormalities hidden.

A tomosynthesis exam is relatively new technology in which the x-ray tube moves in an arc over the compressed breast and captures multiple images from different angles. The images are then reconstructed into a set of 3D images by a computer.

By being able to examine the breast at multiple layers of depth, the radiologist is better able to distinguish normal breast tissue from potential tumours.

This method could be especially useful for women with dense breast tissue.

To determine whether this newer 3D method is more superior than the conventional 2D exam, researchers are conducting a study which will Include approximately 165,000 participants from centres across Canada, the U.S. and Argentina.

Participants will undergo either an annual or biennial screening frequency, depending on their risk factors for breast cancer, for approximately four years.

Then participants will undergo long-term follow-up for at least three more years.