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  • Writer's pictureDMS - Digital Mammography & Women's Imaging

What Is A 3D Whole Breast Ultrasound System?

The second most common form of cancer in the United States is breast cancer, after skin cancer. Breast cancer is more commonly diagnosed in women but can also occur in men.

Cancer happens due to mutations that take place in genes that are responsible for the production and regulation of cell growth. The mutation causes the cells to divide and multiply in an uncontrolled manner.

Breast cancer develops in breast cells. The cancer is formed on the lobules (glands that produce milk) or the milk ducts (that bring the milk to the nipple) of breasts. Cancer can also be found in the fatty tissue or fibrous connective tissue inside the breast.

The cancer cells are a risk and invade healthy breast tissue. They also travel to the lymph nodes under your arms. The lymph network becomes the primary means for the transportation of cancer cells to the rest of the body.

There have many various awareness campaigns that stress early detection and the importance of technology that can highlight and identify cancer cells in the breast. 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound or ABUS is one of them. Read on to learn how it works.

getting a mammogram

What is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray of a women’s breast. It is a screening tool used in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer in women. When coupled with clinical exams and monthly self-examinations of breasts, mammograms are essential in the early detection of breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, regular screening for breast cancer should be from 40 – 45. The risk of breast cancer increases if you have a family history of it. Experts recommend regular screenings six months apart and also emphasize the use of additional diagnostic tools.

Despite it being the most common and beneficial tool in diagnosing breast cancer, a mammogram is not enough. It is almost ineffective in women with "dense" breast tissue.

Even though the sensitivity of a mammogram is high (97%), it can fall to 48 % in women with dense breast tissue. A mammogram is reported to miss diagnosis by 37 to 70 % in women with dense breast tissue.

What Is Dense Breast Tissue?

Fatty tissue in our breasts allows more X-rays to penetrate. It shows up as black or dark grey on a mammogram. Dense tissue, on the other hand, is made of glands and fibrous tissue. It blocks the x rays and appears white on the mammogram. So why is this a problem? Because cancer also shows up white on a mammogram. The whiteness of the dense tissue hides the tumors. As women age, their breasts become denser, and the ability to detect cancer by mammogram decreases. This inaccuracy has resulted in increased biopsies and false positives that cause monetary damage and are taxing on the patients' health.

Four categories of dense breast

How Will I Know If My Breasts Are Dense?

A radiologist determines your breasts' density by examining the mammogram images. It is not determined by how a breast looks or feels. Nonetheless, dense breasts are normal. But dense breasts can hide cancer. For this reason, to increase the accuracy of results, physicians need to inform their patients if they have dense tissue and educate them on the benefits of supplemental screening tools. It is where ultrasound technology is effective.

dense breast statistics

Ultrasound as a Screening and Diagnostic Tool

Ultrasound has been used as an imaging tool for many years. In comparison to other imaging technology like CT and MRI, it is portable and cost-effective.

How Does An Ultrasound Work?

An ultrasound requires the use of a transducer on the area that needs examination. The transducer directs high-frequency sound waves. The difference in the "reflection" of these sound waves is analyzed by software and then used to deliver a 2-dimensional image. Its popularity has increased in recent years as it can detect small masses in women with dense breasts.

What is 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound?

A 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound scans the entire breast. The patient is not required to stand as in a mammogram but let's lie down comfortably. It also does not require any compression of the breasts. The scan produces 3D "volumetric" images viewed by a radiologist. These 3D images are highly beneficial as they allow radiologists to check the breast from various angles for better interpretation and diagnosis.

3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound

This 3D automated technology is designed specifically for women with dense breast tissue as they have a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Combining the 3D automated breast ultrasound with an annual mammogram can double the chances of catching cancer earlier.

Compared to a standard mammogram, ABUS exams are also much shorter (less than seven minutes). It is due to the ABUS using a transducer that automatically scans the breast and is not dependent on an operator.

Current 3D Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound Technology

Currently, there are three ABUS systems in use. The “SonoCiné’s Adjunctive Breast Ultrasound System” is the most renowned. It is to be used in conjunction with a mammogram.

A robotic device holds the handheld ultrasound transducer that removes operator dependency and guarantees error-free results.

Another ABUS system is the “Automated Breast Volume Scanner (ABVS) by Siemens Healthcare.” It is a standalone system and uses a high-frequency, large-format transducer to produce 3-D volumetric images of the breast. The system also does breast imaging reporting and data system (BI-RADS) for scan assessments.

Lastly, U systems Inc “Somo V” is another standalone ABUS device. It also needs to be used in conjunction with a mammogram. Like the above-mentioned ABUS, Somo V also uses a transducer to obtain 3D imaging of the entire breast. Somo V also performes high-volume breast screening.

women's Imaging Specialists

Bottom Line

ABUS has a 97% sensitivity. When used adjunct to mammography, it shows it is an effective screening tool for women who have dense breasts. 40% of women have dense breasts.

Regardless, it is still a new technology and can be enhanced further with advancements in technology. Nonetheless, the technology does eliminate the need for an accredited operator. Radiologists, though, might need training to correctly interpret the images as the scans are 3D instead of 2D as in a mammogram.



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