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).
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.
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.
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.