A study looking at digital breast tomosynthesis to diagnose breast cancer

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study compared digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) with standard digital mammograms. These are tests to diagnose breast cancer. 

The study was for women under 60 years of age. It was open for people to join between 2011 and 2016. The research team published the results in 2021.

More about this trial

When this study was done, doctors usually used mammograms to diagnose breast cancer. In younger women, the breast tissue is often more dense. This can make mammograms less accurate.

In this study, researchers looked at a technique called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). DBT takes more X-rays than a standard mammogram. A computer uses these images to create a 3 dimensional (3D) image.

The women taking part in the study were being seen at a specialist breast clinic. They were attending the clinic because they had symptoms which could be breast cancer.

The main aim of the study was to see if DBT is better than standard digital mammograms in younger women.

Summary of results

Study design
This study was for women who:

  • were between 25 and 59 years old
  • had breast cancer symptoms
  • had been referred to a specialist breast clinic 
  • were due to have a mammogram

The women taking part had a standard mammogram and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT).

A total of 446 women joined this trial. 

The research team found that digital breast tomosynthesis was slightly better than standard mammograms at diagnosing breast cancer in younger women with dense breasts.

They recommend that doctors use DBT for women under 60 years old who have breast cancer symptoms, if they have dense breasts.

More detailed information
There is more information about this research in the reference below. 

Please note, this article is not in plain English. It has been written for health care professionals and researchers.

Digital breast tomosynthesis: sensitivity for cancer in younger symptomatic women
P Whelehan and others
The British Journal of Radiology, 2021. Volume 94, Issue 1119

Where this information comes from    
We have based this summary on the information in the article above. This has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. We have not analysed the data ourselves. As far as we are aware, the link above is active.

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

Professor Andrew Evans

Supported by

NHS Tayside
The Sir John Fisher Foundation
University of Dundee

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.

Caroline took part in a clinical trial for breast cancer

“I had treatment last year and I want to give something back.”

Last reviewed:

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