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Ultrasound Finds More Breast Cancers Than Mammography

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, May 13, 2008 7:25 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Medical Devices, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Brest Cancer, Mammography

Ultrasound finds more breast cancers in dense tissue than mammography alone, study finds.



IMAGE SOURCE: iStockPhoto/ breast covered/ author: Eric Hood


There is good news and bad news about using ultrasound to detect cancers in the breast.

First, it is more sensitive than mammography in finding cancer in dense breast tissue that in a mammogram can just appear white.

But ultrasound can also lead to more false positives meaning women have to undergo more biopsies.

Dr. Wendie Berg is a radiologist affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

“With mammography, a woman has about a one in 40 chance that the biopsy will turn out not to be cancer. With the addition of ultrasound, it’s one in 10” she tells U.S. News. 

In this study 3,000 women with a higher-than normal risk of breast cancer were recruited from 21 centers. Their average age was 55.  Some received mammography alone or mammography with ultrasound performed by a physician.

Within a year- mammography alone found 20 or half of the breast cancers that were eventually diagnosed. But the combination of ultrasound and mammography found 31 of the cancers.

Adding a single screening ultrasound to mammography will yield an additional 1.1 to 7.2 cancers per 1000 high-risk women, the study concludes.

Using ultrasound in addition to standard mammography can lead to more cancers in high-risk women conclude the research funded by the Avon Foundation and the U.S. National Cancer Institute. 

But don’t expect to see it become the standard for evaluation. There aren’t enough ultrasound technicians trained for it to be widely available. A doctor can perform only three to five ultrasounds an hour says Berg.

Compare that to as many as 50 mammograms that can be read in an hour.

MRI may also be more effective than mammography but the cost is prohibitive. It’s up to the woman to talk to her doctor about her risk and screening options.

The results were published in the May 14th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.   #

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