Optimization of propagation-based x-ray phase-contrast tomography for breast cancer imaging

P. Baran, S. Pacile, Y. I. Nesterets, S. C. Mayo, C. Dullin, D. Dreossi, F. Arfelli, D. Thompson, D. Lockie, M. McCormack, S. T. Taba, F. Brun, M. Pinamonti, Carolyn Nickson, C. Hall, M. Dimmock, F. Zanconati, M. Cholewa, H. Quiney, P. C. BrennanG. Tromba, Tim Gureyev

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The aim of this study was to optimise the experimental protocol and data analysis for in-vivo breast cancer x-ray imaging. Results are presented of the experiment at the SYRMEP beamline of Elettra Synchrotron using the propagation-based phase-contrast mammographic tomography method, which incorporates not only absorption, but also x-ray phase information. In this study the images of breast tissue samples, of a size corresponding to a full human breast, with radiologically acceptable x-ray doses were obtained, and the degree of improvement of the image quality (from the diagnostic point of view) achievable using propagation-based phase-contrast image acquisition protocols with proper incorporation of x-ray phase retrieval into the reconstruction pipeline was investigated. Parameters such as the x-ray energy, sample-to-detector distance and data processing methods were tested, evaluated and optimized with respect to the estimated diagnostic value using a mastectomy sample with a malignant lesion. The results of quantitative evaluation of images were obtained by means of radiological assessment carried out by 13 experienced specialists. A comparative analysis was performed between the x-ray and the histological images of the specimen. The results of the analysis indicate that, within the investigated range of parameters, both the objective image quality characteristics and the subjective radiological scores of propagation-based phase-contrast images of breast tissues monotonically increase with the strength of phase contrast which in turn is directly proportional to the product of the radiation wavelength and the sample-to-detector distance. The outcomes of this study serve to define the practical imaging conditions and the CT reconstruction procedures appropriate for low-dose phase-contrast mammographic imaging of live patients at specially designed synchrotron beamlines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2315-2332
Number of pages18
JournalPhysics in Medicine & Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2017


  • breast cancer
  • computed tomography
  • mammography
  • x-ray imaging
  • x-ray phase contrast

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