North Cumbria Integrated Care introduces new imaging tech

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust is using a new form of imaging technology with the aim of improving breast cancer diagnosis.

The process entitled ‘Contrast Enhanced Spectral Mammography’ is said to be more sensitive in picking up specific cancers than mammograms. The technology uses x-ray to take images “much quicker and more clearly,” the trust say, “particularly for people who have dense breast tissue such as younger people.”

The technology is being offered to specific patients alongside the breast MRI scan before rolling out more widely.

Dr Louise Dodgeon, clinical director of radiology and lead clinician breast radiology for the trust, said: “Using Contrast Enhanced Spectral Mammography (CESM) means a better patient experience as they take far less time than breast MRI and there are no concerns of claustrophobia.”

She explained that in mammograms, tissue is shown as white and cancers are also shown as white meaning that they can sometimes be masked by breast mammograms.

Dr Dodgeon said: “This technology uses an iodine contrast that is injected into the vein which then flows through blood stream. The x-ray technology then takes images to show where the blood is flowing to. As cancers have their own blood supply, when the image shows a high density of blood flow to an area, we can see the cancer. When you compare the two images from the mammogram and CESM it gives you a much clearer image of the likelihood of cancer and the extent of cancer.”

She added that the trust is using both CESM, breast MRI and standard mammography imaging techniques together in order to build their knowledge of which patients will benefit most from the new process, and make those patients the priority for this scanning.

Judith Clark, breast imaging manager, commented: “Introducing this new technology to our suite of diagnostic options will improve cancer pathways and the numbers of people we are able to scan… We are extremely proud and we are now looking forward to hosting and supporting professionals from other trusts to show them how we are using it to help them share best practice.”