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Breast Screening Technologies Hit the Road

In the UK, where breast cancer incidence is among the highest in Europe, mobile mammography units have been a component of the National Health Service’s (NHS’s) Breast Screening Program for 20 years. This method of bringing services to patients where they are is part of the formula for providing a mammogram every three years to women aged 47 to 73, across the entire country.

While ‘mobile mammography’ is nothing new, what’s changing is the gradual shift from traditional screen-film mammography to full-field digital mammography, which is why GE Healthcare is taking its own mobile mammography trailer on the road — to demonstrate the latest equipment to NHS clinicians around the UK. The first stop for GE Healthcare’s Mobile Mammo Roadshow was at the Cambridge Conference on Breast Cancer Imaging, which took place at the end of March.

“Normally we invite clinicians to a static site to see and evaluate our equipment,” said Subhashis Ghosh, X-ray Modality Manager at GE Healthcare. “Having the mobile mammography trailer means we can go directly to the customer, allowing an entire staff to experience the GE equipment as it will be used within the mobile environment.”

Laid out as if it were a real, functioning mobile clinic, GE’s mobile unit features the Senographe Essential E, a digital mammography platform designed to meet the demands of a high-volume screening clinic. The trailer has been engineered to allow X-ray exposures to be acquired, and the system is networked to demonstrate the digital workflow. Customers are shown how to transfer data between static units and mobile systems, and to upload acquired data onto an IDI workstation. Also on display are recent images acquired using GE’s SenoBright1 Contrast Enhanced Spectral Mammography (CESM).


A Gradual Transition to Digital

Two pieces of landmark research have established the benefits of digital mammography over film. One, known as Oslo II2, found a significant increase in the numbers of cancers detected.  The other, known as the DMIST trial3, demonstrated that “digital mammography is more accurate in women under the age of 50 years, women with radiographically dense breasts, and premenopausal or perimenopausal women.”

In addition, digital mammography increases patient throughput because image acquisition is immediate. A review of the images can be done while the patient is in the room, instead of having them wait and then return to the mammography room, should a second set of images be required. Other advantages of digital mammography include easier image storage, retrieval and transmission.

Among the next stops that the Mobile Mammo Roadshow will be making this summer are Belfast, Winchester, Milton Keynes and the UK Radiology Congress in Manchester.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, despite the fact that it almost exclusively affects women (99%). According to Cancer Research UK, One woman in eight will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2008, more than 48,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, while 1.38 million were diagnosed worldwide.



1The SenoBright™ option may not be available in all regions. SenoBright Contrast Enhanced Spectral Mammography (CESM) is 510(k) pending at the FDA. Not available for sale in the United States.

2Skaane, Per, MD, PhD, “Randomized Trial of Screen-Film versus Full-Field Digital Mammography with Soft-Copy Reading in Population-based Screening Program: Follow-up and Final Results of Oslo II Study,” Radiology 244:3, September 2007.

3Pisano, Etta D., M.D., “Diagnostic Performance of Digital versus Film Mammography for Breast-Cancer Screening,” New England Journal of Medicine, November 29, 2005.


GE Healthcare’s mobile mammography trailer