Published on July 30, 2018

Is 3-D really the best mammography imaging? Essentia Health participates in national clinical trial to find out

Essentia Health is one of 100 sites across the country participating in a clinical trial to determine the best method of mammography. Called the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST), the study will focus on whether 3-D mammograms should be the industry standard, and if so, why they are better than 2-D mammograms.

“As mammograms get more detailed, as with a 3-D image, it’s increasingly more common to find abnormalities that are not cancer,” says Hematologist/Oncologist Dr. Bret Friday, who leads the Essentia Health Community Cancer Research Program (EHCCRP). “When this happens, a woman is subjected to additional tests and biopsies that can cause pain, infections and other serious complications.  So, sometimes finding more in an image is not always better.”

The study will enroll more than 140,000 patients across the country and here in the Northland. The EHCCPP is hoping to recruit 3,000 to 5,000 women who are due for their normal mammogram.  Once they have consented to inclusion in the trial, patients would then be randomly assigned either a 2-D or 3-D imaging for the next four years.

“There is increasing knowledge that many breast cancers may develop and never grow or can actually spontaneously go away,” says Dr. Friday.  “If the latest and greatest imaging just finds those, then we really aren’t helping woman live longer or better. This study will formally and scientifically determine if 3-D mammograms should be the standard.”

Dr. Friday adds that the data set from the TMIST study will also give researchers valuable insight into other questions surrounding breast cancer screening, such as when to start, when to stop and how often to get screened.  The National Cancer Institute developed the TMIST trial to determine the optimal approach for breast cancer screening.

“Aside from getting their normal mammogram, there is very little trial participants actually need to do.  If concerns are found on a mammogram, they would undergo the typical evaluation we perform for any patient with an abnormal mammogram,” adds Dr. Friday. 

TMIST participation is for women ages 45 to 75 with no history of cancer.  Women with a history of breast cancer are not eligible for participation.  For more information on enrollment in TMIST, contact Kristin Honer at the Essentia Health Oncology Research Department, (218) 786-8323.