A statement from ANSTO said the new technique, called in-line phase-contrast computed tomography or PCT, would be used on patients by 2020. It had been developed because of the high error rate with current screening techniques.
PCT uses conventional X-rays and was pioneered by Melbourne's Dr Keith Nugent and the late Dr Stephen Wilkins in the 1990s. About 30% of cancers are still missed by radiologists; for patients with high breast density, this is more than half.
The research was made possible by a Federal Government investment of $520 million in the facility in 2016.
Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews told a meeting to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that more than 800,000 mammograms were carried out in Australia annually.
“As many women will know, the experience of getting a mammogram can be uncomfortable and in too many cases the existing technology means cancers are missed," she said.
“This research will mean better image quality, a more accurate diagnosis, and a smaller radiation dose. Importantly, there will be no discomfort for patients as the breast compression process will no longer be necessary.”
Professor Andrew Peele, director of the Australian Synchrotron, ANSTO, said, “This vitally important research, enabled by lead researchers using ANSTO’s world-class Synchrotron and our scientists, highlights the very real benefits that science and technology can deliver to the community.
“This is the first application of the technique using synchrotron radiation in human patients, so there is a great deal of preparation and many things that have to take place before its use. Nonetheless we are greatly encouraged by findings so far.”