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Breast Cancer Blog: Breast Scanner May Replace Mammography

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Feb 15, 2006

Breast Scanner May Replace Mammography

Breast Scanner May Replace Mammography
Photo: Martin Tornai, Ph.D., associate professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at Duke University Medical Center with the 3-D breast scanner (photo credit Duke University Medical Center).

Researchers at Duke University have created a new type of breast scanner that will dramatically improve their ability to visualize small tumors while also reducing radiation exposure to one-tenth that of normal mammograms. This may also provide relief from the often-painful experience of breast compression that is involved in the traditional mammograms.

These new scanner uses computed tomography (CT), which is the same technique used in obtaining a CT scan of the chest, but with a unique variation: it provides a three-dimensional image of the breast. The new scanner is capable of rotating around the breast to obtain a complete image of the breast, from the nipple to the chest wall. On the other hand, traditional mammograms provide only a two-dimensional image and they compress the breast, thereby distorting the image and causing discomfort for many women.

The Duke researchers have successfully demonstrated their new CT scanner can detect lesions as small as 5 mm in artificial breast models and in cadavers. Current threshold of detection of soft tissue tumors in mammograms are estimated to be around 1 cm, which is about the size of a marble. However mammogram can detect far smaller micro-calcifications, which could be indicators of disease.

The Duke scientists expect that this scanner would be ready for use within two years and is in the process of developing a start-up company to commercialize the device.

Traditional mammography fails to detect some tumors because it is two-dimensional and thus projects a flattened image of the breast. The compression and two-dimensional image cause overlapped tissues to obscure some tumors. With 3-D imaging, the breast is fully depicted and the contrast between normal and cancerous tissues would be more apparent.


Sherin      



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Breast cancer
Every year, more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Breast cancer ranks second as the leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. Until recently breast cancer topped the list of leading causes of cancer deaths in women, but lately lung cancer has claimed the top position. If skin cancer is excluded, breast cancer is the commonest cancer among American women.

Breast Cancer Blog: Breast Scanner May Replace Mammography

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