Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre

Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre

September 16, 2005 10:01 ET


TRIAL RESULTS SHOW WOMEN WITH DENSE BREASTS, UNDER THE AGE OF 50, WHO ARE PRE-MENOPAUSAL MAY BENEFIT FROM DIGITAL MAMMOGRAPHY Attention: City Editor, Health/Medical Editor, Lifestyle Editor, News Editor, Science Editor TORONTO/ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 16, 2005) - Sunnybrook & Women's is the sole Canadian site involved in the North American clinical trial, led by the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), which showed that although there was no difference between digital and film mammography in detecting breast cancer in the general population, the technique may benefit women who have dense breasts, are under the age of 50, or are pre-menopausal

The study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, was published today in a special on-line publication of the New England Journal of Medicine and announced at an ACRIN meeting in Pentagon City, Virginia, United States.

"We are pleased with what the study has shown," says Dr. Martin Yaffe, senior scientist in imaging research at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre. "We now have evidence that digital mammography is more accurate than film mammography in detecting breast cancer earlier in women who are under 50, have dense breasts, or are pre-menopausal. For women in the appropriate age range, either screening technique will contribute to a reduced mortality due to breast cancer."

For two years, beginning in October 2001, the Digital Mammography Imaging Screening Trial (DMIST) enrolled nearly 50,000 women, including 3,100 women from the Greater Toronto Area, who had no signs of breast cancer at 33 centres in the United States and Canada. Each woman received both a digital and film mammogram, interpreted by two radiologists. Breast cancer status was determined through available breast biopsy information, or through a follow-up mammogram.

Digital mammography takes an electronic image of the breast and stores it directly in a computer, allowing the recorded data to be enhanced, magnified, or manipulated for further evaluation. The electronic image also can be printed on film. Film mammography units use film to capture and display the image. The sensitivity of film mammography is somewhat limited in women with dense breasts, a population at higher risk for breast cancer.

Sunnybrook & Women's has played a significant role leading up to and during DMIST. Dr. Yaffe, a pioneer of digital mammography, was the key player in the development of digital mammography and established guidelines to ensure that radiation dose and image quality were appropriate across all sites. He and radiologist Dr. Roberta Jong, Director of Breast Imaging at Sunnybrook & Women's, were both co-principal investigators and authors of the study.

Since the early 1980's Sunnybrook & Women's, under the leadership of Dr. Yaffe, has been carrying out research in digital mammography which led to building one of the world's first prototype systems.

"I started this research to find a way to detect breast cancer earlier, particularly in women where film mammography was least effective," says Dr. Yaffe, who is also a Professor in the Department of Medical Imaging and Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. "What's exciting is that we have taken digital mammography from an idea, developed it in a lab, created the technology, evaluated it, and participated in a large study to see its importance and impact. This is a true lab-to-bedside success story. We are definitely moving forward the whole area of breast cancer detection."

Dr. Yaffe's enthusiasm for digital mammography goes beyond the results of the DMIST findings. He is dedicated to a variety of aspects of breast cancer imaging and continues to refine and investigate other techniques like tomosynthesis, a technique for acquiring three-dimensional x-ray images of the breast, and telemammography, remote transmission of images that will allow patients living in isolated areas access to radiologists.

One in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer at some point during her lifetime. This year, an estimated 21,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 will die of it making it the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Canadian women.

Digital mammography research at Sunnybrook & Women's has been supported in the past by the Terry Fox Foundation, The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and The Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund.

The digital mammography machine at Sunnybrook & Women's was provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Innovation Trust.

Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre is transforming health care through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff members and volunteers. Specializing in women's health programs, caring for Canada's war veterans, conducting leading-edge research, and teaching the latest advances in healthcare through our affiliation with the University of Toronto, distinguishes Sunnybrook & Women's as one of the country's premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook & Women's improves the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each year by caring for newborns, adults and the elderly, treating and preventing cancer, heart and circulation diseases, disorders of the brain, mind and nervous system, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions, and traumatic injuries.

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