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Ultrasound Spots Breast Cancer in Pregnant Women

Don't neglect breast exams, symptoms during pregnancy, experts warn

TUESDAY, March 28, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Ultrasound is a safe and accurate way to detect breast cancer in pregnant women and to assess their response to chemotherapy, U.S. researchers report.

The team from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston also urged pregnant women not to ignore breast cancer symptoms.

"Ultrasound identified 100 percent of cancers in our study, and mammography demonstrated 90 percent," chief investigator Dr. Wei T. Yang, associate professor of diagnostic radiology, said in a prepared statement.

"We want young women to know that symptomatic breast cancer that occurs during pregnancy can be imaged, diagnosed and treated while pregnant, so they should not wait to seek medical attention if they start to have suspicious symptoms," Yang said.

The researchers noted that hormonal changes during pregnancy and lactation cause increased breast volume and firmness, which can hinder detection of tumors.

In this study, 23 pregnant women were diagnosed with 24 breast cancers. Seventeen tumors were detected using a combination of ultrasound and mammography, four tumors were diagnosed with ultrasound alone, and three tumors were diagnosed with mammography alone.

Ultrasound also detected the spread of cancer to the lymph nodes in 15 of the 18 women where this occurred, the study said. It also provided an accurate depiction of treatment response in 12 women who had chemotherapy.

The study appears in the April issue of the journal Radiology.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer and pregnancy.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, March 28, 2006
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