Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Advancements in Breast Imaging to Help Increase Detection of Cancer

Since the late 1960s, mammography has been key in detecting breast cancer by using a low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts and create an image. Doctors can then view these images and locate possibly cancerous cells in the breast, allowing them to investigate further and possibly begin treatment. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that women 40 and older have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. They also recommend that women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer should talk with their health care providers about whether to have mammograms before age 40 and how often to have them. In some cases, mammograms have given false negative and false positive results, meaning the x-ray either shows that there is breast cancer when there is not, or shows nothing when cancer is in fact present. However, many doctors have started using newer techniques for breast imaging to achieve more accurate results and have fewer false readings.

Breast-specific gamma imaging (BSGI) is a new technique which uses positively charged tracers that are illuminated and attract to negatively charged cancer cells, allowing doctors to see if cancer is present and where it is located. One BSGI study, conducted by Dr. Rachel Brem and her colleagues of the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington D.C., used results from 159 mammograms that had found lesions within the breast. Doctors then tested these women again using the BSGI technique, revealing lesions in 29 percent of the women with about one third of those lesions being cancerous. The BSGI method also

Positron emission mammography (PEM) is another advancement in the area of breast imaging that also uses radiotracers as opposed to an x-ray. The PEM method uses the tracers in addition to glucose, which the cancer cells attract to for energy, allowing the tracers to appear on the image where cancer is present. In a PEM study conducted by Dr. Kathy Schilling at the Center for Breast Care at the Boca Raton Community Hospital in Florida, the method was tested to see how breast density and hormonal status of 208 women influenced the results. Schilling found that the results were comparable to that of an MRI, which can sometimes lead to false positives.

Both of these methods are relatively new and more testing still needs to be done. Women that are at a higher risk for breast cancer should speak with their doctor and make sure they are being adequately tested. As is true for all cancers, treatment is most effective with early detection, so it is important to follow the established guidelines and recommendations and talk to your doctor regularly. If you or a loved one has experienced a delay in diagnosis or treatment of breast or any other type of cancer, please contact Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, serving clients in Nassau and Suffolk County, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens. Silberstein, Awad & Miklos also serve clients located in Staten Island and Westchester County.

Call us toll-free 1-877-ASK4SAM and visit

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