Imaging of the breast to screen for cancer can be complicated by tissue density, but a technology firm and UK hospital hope to improve results.

Densitas, a Canadian company applying analytics to breast imaging, is partnering with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in the United Kingdom, with the aim of using and studying the results of personalized breast screening technologies.

The project will introduce the use of two Densitas products into routine clinical workflow at the trust’s facilities, with the intent of enabling population-level stratified breast screening and mammography. The challenge will be to improve the quality of screenings and prompt additional research in the field.

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Mammography is the typical choice for detecting breast cancer, with radiologists using X-ray and, increasingly, computed tomography to try and detect lumps that often are undetectable by feel. However, imaging approaches are less effective in women who have dense breasts, which tend to obscure the smallest lumps from view. These women are at risk of having lumps go undetected, allowing the cancer to grow and potentially spread before detection and treatment.

The current standard of care in the UK National Health Service is subjective, visual assessment of breast tissue density by the radiologist, if it is performed at all. The Densitas software provides an automated mechanism for quantifying and recording breast density, making it readily available to the radiologist, along with the digital mammograms. This will allow the Leeds team to assess breast density for every woman who has a screening mammogram performed.

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Beyond speeding and simplifying the process of quantifying breast density, Densitas software will standardize the density measurement and enable stratification of screen-eligible women to ensure those who need more aggressive follow-up receive it, while those who do not need aggressive follow-up do not receive unnecessary imaging.

The software is able to assess breast density using the routinely archived processed DICOM images that radiologists normally review, and therefore supports prospective and retrospective breast density measurement for clinical care and for research.

Nisha Sharma, MD, director of breast screening at Leeds Teaching Hospital said: "This is a really exciting development for us because it has the potential to make a real difference to the quality of our screening program and ultimately to the health outcomes of women in Leeds. I'm very pleased that the Leeds Breast Screening unit and research team have the opportunity to collaborate with Densitas. This is the foundation for future developments that will improve breast care."

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