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5 December 2005
New Breast Cancer Machine Better At Detection Than Mammograms

A new investigational technology for early breast cancer detection called breast CT has been undergoing trials that indicate it may be better than mammography at detecting breast lesions. As well as better detection capabilities, the new method is also apparently much more comfortable than a mammogram.

Results from trials of the new machine, developed by researchers at the University of California (UC), were reported at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. These most recent trials were designed to determine if breast CT can detect lesions as effectively as mammography.

UC radiologist Karen Lindfors reported that lesions seen on mammography were also seen on breast CT in 19 of the first 21 cases. The two lesions not seen on breast CT were both benign. "In this initial evaluation, breast CT images were subjectively found to be equivalent to and potentially better than standard mammography for the detection and evaluation of breast cancer," said Lindfors.

The machine is currently undergoing modifications that should improve its ability to scan very large breasts and to detect lower-density abnormalities. "Initial impressions were favorable with respect to breast CT. However, it is apparent that refinements in patient positioning and improvements in viewing techniques and radiologist training will be required to optimally generate and interpret the breast CT image data," Lindfors noted. The researchers hope to show that breast CT can detect smaller tumors than mammography.

Women in the trial gave the new machine a high rating for comfort. Unlike mammography, in which the breast is squeezed between two plates, the breast CT requires no breast compression. The patient lies face down on a padded table. The table has a circular opening in it, through which the patient places one breast at a time. A CT machine under the table rotates around each breast. Scanning takes about 17 seconds per breast. The researchers said that CT imaging used no more radiation than traditional mammography.

Source: University of California, Davis - Health System
Photo courtesy Source: University of California, Davis - Health System

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