Noncancerous breast tissue and cancerous breast tissue have different elastic properties. In particular, cancerous breast tumors are stiff when compared to the noncancerous surrounding tissue. This difference in elasticity can be used as a means for detection through the method of elastographic tomosynthesis by means of physical modulation. Technology or Method: This paper deals with a method to visualize elasticity of soft tissues, particularly breast tissues, via x-ray tomosynthesis. X-ray tomosynthesis is now used to visualize breast tissues with better resolution than the conventional single-shot mammography. The advantage of X-ray tomosynthesis over X-ray CT is that fewer projections are needed than CT to perform the reconstruction, thus radiation exposure and cost are both reduced. Results: Two phantoms were used for the testing of this method, a physical phantom and an in silico phantom. The standard root mean square error in the tomosynthesis for the physical phantom was 2.093 and the error in the in silico phantom was negligible. The elastographs were created through the use of displacement and strain graphing. A Gaussian Mixture Model with an expectation–maximization clustering algorithm was applied in three dimensions with an error of 16.667%. The results of this paper have been substantial when using phantom data. Conclusions: There are no equivalent comparisons yet in 3D x-ray elastographic tomosynthesis. Tomosynthesis with and without physical modulation in the 3D elastograph can identify feature groupings used for biopsy. Clinical Impact: The studies have potential to be applied to human test data used as a guide for biopsy to improve accuracy of diagnosis results. Further research on this topic could prove to yield new techniques for human patient diagnosis purposes.
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