Researchers look to image mapping for breast cancer detection
Web posted at: 2:46 p.m. EDT (1846 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Dan Rutz
MADISON, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Hundreds of women in the Midwest are about to take part in a medical trial to study if an imaging system that uses no X-rays can be trusted to diagnose breast cancer.
This new procedure may help women like Briony Foy, whose mother died of breast cancer at an early age. Like many middle-aged women, Foy's breast tissue is naturally lumpy and dense, making cancer screening difficult.
"I mean every time I get a mammogram ... they say, 'well, you know it's pretty hard to see anything on your breasts,'" Foy said. "I'm like, well then okay, what do we do next?"
The answer is often nothing. Many women are just left to wait and see what happens.
While a lot of attention is focused on the importance of breast cancer screening, much less is said about its limitations.
Researchers are hoping image mapping may relieve the uncertainty and anxiety of early cancer detection.
Professor Hadassa Degani of Israel's Weizmann Institute uses MRI images, which require no X-ray images to distinguish cancerous from benign breast lumps.
"Breast cancer, because of the need to have early detection and accurate means of diagnosis, is probably one of the first areas, that I as a woman or as a scientist, would like to see this potential of the method be implemented," Degani said.
At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Frederick Kelcz has been using MRI for several years as a tie breaker to help rule cancer in or out for women whose standard examinations are inconclusive.
"It's basically those patients on whom we've done the mammography, we've done the ultrasound," Kelcz said. "We still can't figure out what's going on and we're somewhat concerned about what we see."
Kelcz and some Chicago area doctors will help test MRI as a general screening tool for breast cancer.
Women with tumors of unknown origin will be routinely offered MRI in addition to biopsies, where suspicious tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.
If the electronic imaging proves reliable, it could eventually reduce the need for surgical biopsies.
"If we come up with this clinical trial with very good results, I see no reason why other ones wouldn't use it," Degani said.
Once proven to be accurate, she said the MRIs could also be used to finding cancers elsewhere in the body.
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