There should be subsidized mass breast cancer screening in light of new, less painful 3D mammography that gives lower false- positives, radiologists say.
Radiology specialists Julian Fong Chun- yan and Lui Chun-ying said the machine can overcome issues the typically used 2D mammography faces, such as false-positives, missed diagnosis and pain or anxiety.
The new technology creates a composite image with multiple one-millimeter scans, while the two-dimensional screening takes one picture after flattening the breast.
"The 3D scan is like reading a book page by page," Lui adds.
He presented research from Hologic, a women's health product manufacturer, which showed a 51 percent increase in accuracy and 40 percent decrease in recall rates compared with the 2D machines.
Hong Kong currently has one second- generation 3D mammography machine, at the Hong Kong Women's Imaging clinic in Tsim Sha Tsui. A first-generation 3D machine is also in use at the private Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital in Happy Valley.
The first-generation technology, in contrast to the second generation, requires an additional 2D screening.
Lui said they adopted the technology in April at Women's Imaging, and out of the 200 patients who used the machine, at least 10 to 20 cases were false-positives from previous diagnosis with 2D.
The estimated price of a 3D mammography is HK$3,000, about HK$1,000 more expensive than 2D mammography, the radiologists said.
Fong added that 2D mammography is often paired with other procedures, including ultrasound, because of technological limitations.
Fong said it is their "ultimate dream" for the government to subsidize breast cancer diagnosis for all Hong Kong women, and this goal is achievable with 3D mammography as it is much less prone to false-positives.
The Hong Kong Cancer Registry says nearly seven out of 10 breast cancer patients are between the ages of 40 and 64.
Breast cancer is the No1 cancer for local women, with incidents quadrupling since 1984 to 3,419 registered cases in 2011.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over 40 years old should undergo mammography screening every year.