Propagation-based phase-contrast CT (PB-CT) is an advanced X-ray imaging technology that can generate higher quality diagnostic breast images than absorption-based CT (AB-CT), at a glandular radiation dose comparable to, or lower than, conventional mammography and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). The technology is currently limited to use with synchrotron light sources, but the evolution of compact light sources may make clinical application feasible, improving the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer.
A multidisciplinary team of scientists is working on the clinical application of PB-CT using the Imaging and Medical Beamline. The researchers have now optimized the technique using 12 mastectomy samples that included different tumor types or benign lesions. They showed that PB-CT achieved significantly higher image quality than AB-CT and demonstrated that substantially lower doses could be used with PB-CT.
Phase-contrast imaging, which exploits both the refraction and the absorption of transmitted X-rays, offers potential to overcome the limitations of current breast imaging modalities. The 3D images produced by DBT reduce the tissue superimposition effects of 2D mammography, but have lower sensitivity in detection of calcifications.