New Study: Ultrasound and Breast Cancer
In a new study reported in February’s Radiology, the importance of breast ultrasound as an addition to mammography was again highlighted. Ultrasound was shown to find breast cancers in women not seen on mammography.
We know that in the case of dense breast tissue, ultrasound is a valuable imaging technique. While mammography is one of the best screening tools for breast cancer in our arsenal (along with self exams and CBEs), one problem is dense breast tissue which can hinder the detection of breast cancer. Sensitivity of mammography in detecting cancer in patients with dense breasts is less than in women with fatty breasts – an unfortunate reality researchers are working hard to address.
This is where ultrasound comes in with great strength. As an addition to mammography, breast ultrasound, which looks at tissue without the use of radiation, images tissue differently. It looks at completely different breast tissue properties, allowing dense breasts to be evaluated with no loss of sensitivity as compared to those with fatty breasts. While microcalcifications don’t always show up on ultrasound, other signs of cancer such as masses and distorted tissue can be detected. This study showed that adding breast ultrasound to screening in high risk women allows more cancers to be found. Additionally, cancers seen on ultrasound were not seen on the mammogram – even when looking back.
While finding cancer is never great news, finding it early when it’s very treatable can be amazing. Survival rates for early detection are quite high. Breast ultrasound is another tool in the imaging arsenal which has the capability of doing just that, complementing the abilities and weaknesses of mammography.
With the power of breast ultrasound in finding breast cancers supported by this recent study, we are encouraged that women with dense breasts or higher than average risk have options available to help them on their path to their best possible health.
Image credit: Philips Ultrasound EPIQ – Breast by Philips Communications via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Originally published 3/12/14 on mammographykc.com.