3D mammograms catch breast cancer earlier

The US study found the technique – known as tomosynthesis – helps increase breast cancer detection rate when used alongside traditional 2D mammograms.

And the combination of the two methods also decreases the proportion of patients called back for more tests, the study, published on Wednesday in JAMA, found.

The combination is especially good at finding small invasive cancers that are most likely to be lethal.

Led by Sarah Friedewald at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Illinois in the US, the study analysed 454,850 examinations from 13 centres, of which 280,000 used just mammograms, and 174,000 used a combination of mammograms and tomosynthesis.

There was a higher cancer detection rate in the combination method which could mean fewer unnecessary tests and biopsies, the authors wrote.

But while tomosynthesis is likely to be better than traditional mammography, some fundamental questions about when to