, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 381-387

Assessment of grating-based X-ray phase-contrast CT for differentiation of invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ in an experimental ex vivo set-up

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Abstract

Objective

Limited contrast between healthy and tumour tissue is a limiting factor in mammography and CT of the breast. Phase-contrast computed tomography (PC-CT) provides improved soft-tissue contrast compared with absorption-based techniques. In this study, we assessed the technical feasibility of grating-based PC-CT imaging of the breast for characterisation of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Methods

Grating-based PC-CT was performed on one breast specimen containing an invasive ductal carcinoma and DCIS using monochromatic radiation of 23 keV. Phase-contrast and absorption-based images were compared qualitatively and quantitatively with histopathology in a blinded fashion.

Results

Grating-based PC-CT showed improved differentiation of soft-tissue components. Circular structures of high phase-shift contrast corresponding to the walls of the dilated ductuli of the DCIS were visualised with a contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) of 9.6 using PC-CT but were not detectable on absorption-based images (CNR = 0.27). The high phase-shift structures of the dilated ductuli were identifiable in the PC-CT volume data set allowing for 3D characterisation of DCIS.

Conclusions

Our results indicate that unlike conventional CT, grating-based PC-CT may allow the differentiation between invasive carcinoma and intraductal carcinoma and healthy breast tissue and provide 3D visualisation of DCIS.

Key Points

Phase-contrast computed tomography (CT) yields improved soft-tissue contrast.

The method can resolve the fine structure of a breast tumour.

Invasive and intraductal carcinoma can be differentiated.

Differentiation is possible by visual inspection and quantification.

The method could improve early breast cancer diagnosis.