New Scans Spot More Small Breast Tumors

Molecular breast imaging method improves detection of malignancies

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FRIDAY, Jan. 14, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- A new technique that uses a specially designed gamma camera improves detection of small breast tumors, says a study in the January issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"By optimizing the camera to detect smaller breast lesions, this technique should aid in the detection of early-stage breast cancer, something that was not possible with conventional gamma cameras," Mayo radiologist Dr. Michael O'Connor said in prepared statement.

The Mayo team used the technique, called molecular breast imaging, on 40 women who had suspicious mammogram findings. The imaging detected 33 of the 36 malignant lesions confirmed in 26 of the women during surgery. Overall, molecular breast imaging had an 86 percent detection rate of small breast tumors.

Mammography uses differences in the anatomic appearance of tumors and normal tissue to detect breast cancer. These differences can be subtle and can be obscured by dense breast tissue. Molecular breast imaging detects cancer by identifying differences in the metabolic behavior of tumors and normal tissue, according to the researchers.

"Approximately 25 to 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue, which decreases the chance that a cancer will be visible on their mammograms," Mayo radiologist Dr. Douglas Collins said in a prepared statement.

"With molecular breast imaging, the visibility of the tumor is not influenced by the density of the surrounding tissue, so this technique is well-suited to find cancers in women whose mammograms may not be very accurate," Collins said.

More information

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

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Jan. 11, 2005


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