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These images of a 50-year old woman's breast were taken at the Mayo Clinic and showcase the new method. The leftmost image is a traditional X-Ray and misses the tumor, showing no abnormalities. The expensive MRI in the center detects the tumor. However, the molecular breast image, using radioactive dye (right) also detects the tumor at a fraction of the cost.  (Source: AP)
New methods promise to save lives by detecting breast cancer more quickly, eliminate false positives

With approximately one-third of Americans experiencing cancer in their lifetime, it is imperative to develop better cancer detection and treatment.  For women and some men, one of the deadliest cancers is breast cancer.  Traditionally, women are checked for cancer by mammograms, typically consisting of an X-ray of the breast.  However, the tests are somewhat inaccurate at spotting cancer.

On the other side of the spectrum is the MRI test used to generate a more detailed view inside the breast.  This expensive test is typically only reserved for high-risk patients.  The result -- some cancers that could be detected are going undetected due to the cost and effort required.

Now scientists at the Mayo Clinic are experimenting with a new, cheaper method that may allow the accuracy of MRI at a fraction of a cost.  New imaging methods are also being developed, which create an image that the radiologist views in three dimensions using special glasses, similar in basic concept to a 3D movie.

The new technology is still being assessed for viability, but many physicians see it as critical.  In women with dense breast tissue, it is virtually impossible to detect cancer using X-rays.  The new methods may help with this group of women.  It is estimated that half of women younger than 50 and a third of women over 50 have dense breasts.  Worst of all, dense breasts have been shown to have a higher cancer risk, so the most at risk group is the hardest to detect, a dangerous mix.

For women today with dense breasts (which a doctor can determine in a mammogram check), this news may be rather startling.  With current available methods there's little that can be done either.

American Cancer Society screening specialist Robert Smith stated, "It's a major issue in the field now, more and more, how to address the imaging needs of women with significant breast density.  We and women and everyone else is kind of left wondering what would be best under what circumstances.”

Dr. Mary S. Newell, assistant breast-imaging chief at Emory University in Atlanta added that "we can do better than we're doing."  She's helping test one of the 3D approaches.

Traditional mammograms work by X-raying breast tissue.  Shadows indicate denser spots, which could be tumors.  Regular mammograms for women over 40 are very beneficial as they can catch cancer earlier, in a more treatable stage.  Dense breasts however show up as one big shadowy mass.

Currently there are two alternatives.  Some women have elected to go for ultrasound scans of their dense breasts.  There have been a handful of studies supporting this approach, but it remains controversial and many physicians remain skeptical.  Others go for MRIs, which can spot unusual blood flow, indicating a tumor.  However, the MRI carries a $1,000 plus price tag.  Furthermore, both methods frequently have false positives, creating hassle and unnecessary fear for the patient.

One of the new methods is "stereo mammograms".  These mammograms help standard 2D mammogram images taken by literally smushing the woman's breast into mammogram unit, as usual to flatten the breast.  The image is only a little different than standard ones, but by using special glasses that utilize stereoscopic effects in the differences in angles between the two eyes, a pseudo-3D image is created.  This image can help doctors spot unseen spots under soft tissue.

In a new soon-to-be-published study in which Emory radiologists gave both the classic and the new stereo scan mammograms to patients, the new method improved detection by 23 percent and lowered false positives by 46 percent.

The second method, being developed by the Mayo Clinic, is named molecular breast imaging, or MBI.  It detects tumor not by a visual, but by how it acts.  Doctors inject a radioactive tracer, typically used in heart tests.  It has been found that the tracer collects in breast tumors and when exposed to a small gamma ray camera it lights up for easy viewing and detection of tumors.

Unlike MRIs, which require a separate visit and massive expensive equipment, the new scan can be done on the same visit and in the same room as the X-ray machine said Mayo radiology fellow Carrie Beth Hruska.

The MBI method in a recent test proved almost as accurate as the MRI, a proven technology.  It detected 51 tumors in 30 patients, while the MRI found 53 cancers in 31 patients.  Dr. Hruska presented these results at a Defense Department breast cancer conference last week.

The Mayo clinic will soon release the full results of their study, which tested 2,000 women with the new method.  In the fall, additional government funding is expected to bring the method to more hospitals, as it is tested more carefully.

While everyone wants to cure cancer, detection is equally important.  These new methods promise to save lives.

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Typical Men
By idgarad on 7/7/2008 1:18:39 PM , Rating: 5
Leave it to a team of men to find a new way to look at women's breasts...

RE: Typical Men
By Misty Dingos on 7/7/2008 1:43:21 PM , Rating: 5
Not only to look at but to save. This is a win for everyone! Women with healthy breasts are more likely to wear garments that let us have a peak at them! And of course there are all the women that don't die from cancer too. But as a guy I have to have a proper perspective on breast health.

RE: Typical Men
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 7/7/2008 3:08:53 PM , Rating: 2
I bet more men will read this article and view those x-ray photos then women too.....

RE: Typical Men
By kzrssk on 7/10/2008 2:40:06 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I'm assuming DailyTech's reader base is mostly male, so that's not hard to believe.

RE: Typical Men
By strmbkr on 7/7/2008 4:32:41 PM , Rating: 2
Crap, I'm wondering when will they invent Superman style x-ray vision.

RE: Typical Men
By BruceLeet on 7/8/2008 8:42:09 AM , Rating: 2
Does your name mean,



By TomZ on 7/7/2008 1:49:36 PM , Rating: 2
Anybody know the medical/technical reason(s) that ultrasound can't or isn't used for this purpose? I know that a lot of women avoid mammograms because they can be painful for some.

RE: Ultrasound
By cscpianoman on 7/7/2008 2:11:16 PM , Rating: 2
Ultrasound is used, but it gives way too many false positives.

RE: Ultrasound
By omnicronx on 7/7/2008 2:26:01 PM , Rating: 2
For some odd reason, ultrasounds are rarely covered by insurance companies (or medicare for that matter) even though they are a fraction of the cost. It would be interesting to know how cheap this new method actually is, off hand I think an MRI can cost upwards of one thousand dollars where as an ultrasound is in the area of 100.

I would also like to add that any kind of ultrasound is going to be much more intrusive than pretty much any kind of x-ray or MRI.(i.e prolonged physical contact is probably required). Ultrasounds have also been known to produce many false positives, although they are capable of finding tumors that regular mammograms can not find.

Either way, if all goes well, this new technology could be a real breakthrough, I guess it all depends on how much a fraction of the cost of an MRI really is. If its in the 50 dollar range, then this would be a breakthrough even if it is not going to be covered.

RE: Ultrasound
By fic2 on 7/7/2008 5:09:29 PM , Rating: 2
I used to write software for a company that did mammogram equipment. From what I heard it was painful for all women. Our software architect actually had a mammogram done just to see how bad it was. He said it was very bad. Before the company went out of business we were working on doing a full scan at high res (27 microns) in about 4 secs.

Now with 100% more radiation.
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2008 1:08:39 PM , Rating: 1
I wonder what the dye is they are using?

At least you can send your wife to the doctor now, have her come back with a renewed "glow" and know that it wasn't because of his soft hands. ;)

By Smartless on 7/7/2008 3:10:25 PM , Rating: 3
Could be worse. Can always do the "B-B-B-B-B-risk" test. Visualize first, vote down second please.

3D again...
By Oregonian2 on 7/7/2008 5:55:20 PM , Rating: 2
They seem to be rediscovering the really ancient technology of stereoscopic x-rays. Finally!

Works nicely looking for pre-brain surgery views as well.

excellent news
By Quiksel on 7/9/2008 11:29:44 AM , Rating: 2
this news is certainly titillating.

Gotta Love It!
By bldckstark on 7/7/08, Rating: -1
RE: Gotta Love It!
By Suomynona on 7/7/2008 2:04:35 PM , Rating: 3
You need better sources of pr0n.

RE: Gotta Love It!
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2008 3:11:30 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously. That or a "pressure valve release" and let out that back pressure. ;)

This would be as fuzzy as trying to mess with a 1970's tv that had tuning knobs on old school analog cable trying to tune it in 'just enough' to cancel out some of the filtering to catch a glimpse here and there of something you shouldn't be watching for free on the Spice Network.

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