Phase-contrast and scattering-based x-ray imaging are known to provide additional and complementary information to conventional, absorption-based methods, and therefore have the potential to play a crucial role in medical diagnostics. We report on the first mammographic investigation of 5 native, that is, freshly dissected, breasts carried out with a grating interferometer and a conventional x-ray tube source. Four patients in this study had histopathologically proven invasive breast cancer. One male patient, without the presence of any malignant formations within the resected breast, was included as a control specimen.Materials and Methods:
We used a Talbot-Lau grating setup installed on a conventional, low-brilliance x-ray source; the interferometer operated at the fifth Talbot distance, at a tube voltage of 40 kVp with mean energy of 28 keV, and at a current of 25 mA. The device simultaneously recorded absorption, differential phase and small-angle scattering signals from the native breast tissue. These quantities were then combined into novel color- and high-frequency-enhanced radiographic images. Presurgical images (conventional mammography, ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance imaging) supported the findings and clinical relevance was verified.Results:
Our approach yields complementary and otherwise inaccessible information on the electron density distribution and the small-angle scattering power of the sample at the microscopic scale. This information can be used to potentially answer clinically relevant, yet unresolved questions such as unequivocally discerning between malignant and premalignant changes and postoperative scars and distinguishing cancer-invaded regions within healthy tissue.Conclusions:
We present the first ex vivo images of fresh, native breast tissue obtained from mastectomy specimens using grating interferometry. This technique yields improved diagnostic capabilities when compared with conventional mammography, especially when discerning the type of malignant conversions and their breadth within normal breast tissue. These promising results advance us toward the ultimate goal, using grating interferometry in vivo on humans in a clinical setting.