A study comparing digital breast tomosynthesis with standard mammogram in screening younger high risk women

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study compared digital breast tomosynthesis with a standard mammogram for screening younger women at high risk of breast cancer.

More about this trial

Some people have higher risk of developing breast cancer than others. This may be because they have a family history of breast cancer, for example.

Mammograms are used as a screening test for breast cancer. Screening means looking for signs of cancer before there are any symptoms. Sometimes it can be difficult to be sure what is cancer and what isn’t on a standard mammogram. So some women are recalled for extra tests to be sure.

Tomosynthesis (pronounced tom-oh-sin-ther-sis) is an advanced type of mammogram. It uses digital X-rays and a computer to put together a 3D picture of the breast. You may hear this called digital breast tomosynthesis, or DBT.

We already knew from research that tomosynthesis can help give a more accurate and detailed picture of the breast than the standard mammogram. Researchers hoped it would reduce the need for extra tests to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of cancer.

The research team running this study compared results from standard mammograms and tomosynthesis, for women aged 40 to 49 with an increased risk of breast cancer.

The aims of this study were to find out if tomosynthesis can:

  • reduce the number of women recalled for extra tests
  • diagnose breast cancer more accurately

Summary of results

The results showed that tomosynthesis didn’t improve the diagnosis of breast cancer in younger, high risk women.

The research team recruited women between 2014 and 2016, and published the results in 2017.

The research team recruited over 1,000 women aged 40 to 49 to this study.  Those taking part were put into 1 of 2 groups at random, and:

  • half had a mammogram, followed a year later by a mammogram and tomosynthesis
  • half had a mammogram and tomosynthesis, followed a year later by a mammogram

The research team looked at the number of women who were recalled for extra tests but were found not to have breast cancer. This is called a false positive result. They found it was similar:

  • 28 out of 1,170 women (2.4%) who’d had a mammogram
  • 26 out of 1,175 women (2.2%) who’d had a mammogram and tomosynthesis

They also looked at the number of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer, and found it was:

  • 5 women who had a mammogram
  • 6 women who had a mammogram and tomosynthesis

The research team concluded that using tomosynthesis didn’t make much difference to the number of women who were recalled for further tests.

We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed) Open a glossary item and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Anthony Maxwell

Supported by

Prevent Breast Cancer
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Harriet wanted to try new treatments

A picture of Harriet

“I was keen to go on a clinical trial. I wanted to try new cancer treatments and hopefully help future generations.”

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