Newer imaging tests developed to treat breast cancer
Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 8:01 pm
Several newer imaging methods are now being studied for evaluating abnormalities that may be breast cancers.
Scintimammography (molecular breast
In scintimammography, a slightly radioactive tracer called technetium sestamibi is injected into a vein.
The tracer attaches to breast cancer cells and is detected by a special camera.
This is a newer technique that is still being studied to see if it will be useful in finding breast cancers. Some radiologists believe it may helpful in looking at suspicious areas found by regular mammograms, but its exact role remains unclear.
Current research is aimed at improving the technology and evaluating its use in specific situations such as in the dense breasts of younger women. Some early studies have suggested that it may be almost as accurate as more expensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. This test, however, will not replace your usual screening mammogram.
Tomosynthesis (3D mammography)
This technology is basically an extension of a digital mammogram. For this test, the breast is compressed once and a machine takes many low-dose x-rays as it moves over the breast. The images taken can be combined into a 3-dimensional picture. Although this uses more radiation than most standard 2 view mammograms, it may allow doctors to see problem areas more clearly, lowering the chance that the patient will need to be called back for more imaging tests. A breast tomosynthesis machine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 for use in the US, but the role of this technology in screening and diagnosis is still not clear.
Computer-aided detection and diagnosis (CAD)
Computer-aided detection and diagnosis (CAD) was developed to help radiologists detect suspicious changes on mammograms. In this technique, computers help doctors identify abnormal areas on a mammogram by acting as a second set of eyes. This can be done with standard film mammograms or with digital mammograms. For standard mammograms, the film is fed into a machine which converts the image into a digital signal that is then analyzed by the computer.
Alternatively, the technology can be applied to a digital mammogram. The computer then displays the image on a video screen, with markers pointing to areas that the radiologist should check especially closely. Although some doctors find CAD helpful, the results of 2, large studies found that it did not find more cancers or find cancers earlier. It did, however, increase the number of women who needed to come back for more tests and/or have breast biopsies. Whether CAD will continue to be used in the future is not clear.