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Special report: Tackling the dense breast dilemma

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | May 21, 2012
From the May 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Although molecular breast imaging involves a low dose of radiation, experts in the modality say that the benefits of early cancer detection far outweigh the health risks of radiation.

Enter digital tomosynthesis
Some of the biggest news for the mammography industry has been the acceptance of digital tomosynthesis in the clinical space. Last year, the FDA approved the first mammography system—Hologic, Inc.’s Selenia Dimensions System—which provides 3-D images for breast cancer screening and diagnosis (while also keeping 2-D capability in place). The FDA based its approval on results which showed a seven percent improvement in radiologists’ ability to distinguish between benign and malignant cancer with 3-D images verses 2-D.

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“We project it’s going to be our growth market over the next five years,” says Pat Hall, director of product communications and professional relations for breast health at Hologic.

Breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography, captures a series of images at different degrees around the breast in one millimeter slices.

“It reduces overlapping structures so you can find hidden cancers and decrease the number of women who are called back,” says Hall. And eliminating patient anxiety due to unnecessary call backs is a legitimate benefit.

Hall adds that the value of tomosynethesis will increase as more independent clinical studies come out, many of which are already underway.

Once this happens, and reimbursement kicks in for tomosynthesis, the market is sure to expand. Some of this growth will come from the digital replacement market, which is gearing up for second generation units to be installed. Digital saturation has reached almost 90 percent in facilities.

“The replacement market is the new technology,” says Hall.

Digital mammography surges forward
A new report from the market research firm, GlobalData, says the full-field digital mammography sector will grow at a compound annual rate of 8 percent through 2017, at which point it will reach $1.3 billion. Experts say the increase will be fueled by a preference for digital radiography systems from patients and providers, as well as more competition in the space from OEMs.

“We went from three main players in digital mammography — GE, Hologic and Siemens — we now have six digital mammography vendors in the market. Obviously, the more vendors you bring in, you see price battles and the price being more competitive,” says Jennifer Okken, senior product manager for Siemens Healthcare.

Siemens’ MAMMOMAT Inspiration digital mammography system became available to the U.S. market in October, 2011. It took almost two years before the FDA approved it for use in the U.S., after successful integration in more than a thousand facilities in Europe. Today, approximately 150 units are installed all over the U.S., according to Okken.

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