Posted on Oct 30, 2012

For over fifty years, CT scanning, an X-ray scanning method has been used by medical professionals and it has lead to much success. The X-ray scanning technique captures several images from different angles and the result leads to a three dimensional view of the body part that is being scanned.

This approach to computed tomography (CT) scans is used only on parts of the body that are deemed safe. Multiple X-ray exposures may pose a hazard to other parts of the body, such as breast tissue. Another technique is used on such “radiosensitive” parts of the body.

For breast tissue, a conventional X-ray imaging method is used, where two images are produced. The method is called a “dual-view mammography.” This method, however, misses 10% to 20% of tumors.

A recent study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposed “a different form of X-rays and a new image analysis approach.” As a result, the team urges that it would simultaneously lead to high-resolution images and reduce the dose to 4% of a standard CT scan. A cancer charity expressed enthusiasm for the new technique, indicating “‘a promising step’ toward earlier, more accurate breast cancer diagnosis.”

The method is called “phase contrast imaging.”

Similar to other CT scans, it measure how much X-ray light goes through tissues in the body. The phase contrast imaging, however, takes an extra step by taking a shorter time to get that information. “This yields a far clearer picture of subtle changes in density that can show tumors.”

Researchers from the United States and Germany are working to refine this method of imaging in the European Synchotron Radiation Facility in France. Changes in the mathematical equations to reconstruct a three dimensional representation of the body party have been found among this type of imaging. In fact, researchers tested the phase contrast imaging method with higher-energy X-rays. Researchers found a clearer image yet less radiation absorbed by the body.

Emma Smith, who is Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, is among the group of researchers excited about this new method of CT scans. Smith cautions, however, that the research is still in its early stage and researchers need to conduct more studies to determine the effects among women.


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Gerry Oginski
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