Two-dimensional breast dosimetry improved using three-dimensional breast image data

John M Boone, Andrew M. Hernandez, J Anthony Seibert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Conventional mammographic dosimetry has been developed over the past 40 years. Prior to the availability of high-resolution three-dimensional breast images, certain assumptions about breast anatomy were required. These assumptions were based on the information evident on two-dimensional mammograms; they included assumptions of thick skin, a uniform mixture of glandular and adipose tissue, and a median breast density of 50%. Recently, the availability of high-resolution breast CT studies has provided more accurate data about breast anatomy, and this, in turn, has provided the opportunity to update mammographic dosimetry. Based on hundreds of data sets on breast CT volume, a number of studies were performed and reported which have shed light on the basic breast anatomy specific to dosimetry in mammography. It was shown that the average skin thickness of the breast was approximately 1.5 mm, instead of the 4 or 5 mm in the past. In another study, 3-D breast CT data sets were used for validation of the 2-D algorithm developed at the University of Toronto, leading to data suggesting that the overall average breast density is of the order of 16–20%, rather than the previously assumed 50%. Both of these assumptions led to normalized glandular dose (DgN) coefficients which are higher than those of the past. However, a comprehensive study on hundreds of breast CT data sets confirmed the findings of other investigators that there is a more centralized average location of glandular tissue within the breast. Combined with Monte Carlo studies for dosimetry, when accurate models of the distribution of glandular tissue were used, a 30% reduction in the radiation dose (as determined by the DgN coefficient) was found as an average across typical molybdenum and tungsten spectra used clinically. The 30% average reduction was found even when the thinner skin and the lower average breast density were considered. The article reviews three specific anatomic observations made possible based on high-resolution breast CT data by several different research groups. It is noted that, periodically, previous assumptions pertaining to dosimetry can be updated when new information becomes available, so that more accurate dosimetry is achieved. Dogmatic practices typically change slowly, but it is hoped that the medical physics community will continue to evaluate changes in DgN coefficients such that they become more accurate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-141
Number of pages13
JournalRadiological Physics and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Breast CT
  • Breast dosimetry
  • Mammography
  • Mean glandular dose
  • Monte Carlo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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