New technology better at finding cancers

July 27, 2010 10:11:39 AM PDT
Many of us have had a friend or loved one who had a mammogram that missed cancer. In fact, many breast cancers in younger women are hard to detect with current technology. But now there's some new technology that can discover cancers that digital mammograms miss. When Jeanne Parker got her routine mammogram, she agreed to have a second mammogram the same day. It was a study comparing digital mammograms to the new tomosynthesis mammography. Results from the standard mammogram arrived first.

"It said looks great, continue your self exams and come back in a year," Jeanne recalled. "A day or two later I got a call and they said, 'Well, we found something with the other machine.'"

She had two cancers -- one in each breast. The standard mammogram missed both.

"Someone was looking out for me, you know," Jeanne said. "It was the right place at the right time."

Dr. Stephen Rose, conducting the study, examined both mammograms and agreed that he would have read the regular mammogram as normal, but he could spot the cancer on the TOMO.

The tomosynthesis image is like a 3D picture and it shows the breast in slices. That makes it more accurate for women with dense breasts.

"Takes just a few seconds, takes no longer than doing a regular mammogram," Dr. Rose said. "We're now able to page through the breast."

It's already found cancer in several women like Jeanne -- cancers which didn't show up on a digital mammogram, and reduced unnecessary biopsies.

Dr. Rose said, "We are able to reduce the tests that need to be done on women and at the same time we're able to find smaller cancers."

Hilda Lyons, who is also a patient in the study, knows the heartbreak when a mammogram misses cancer.

She said, "My sister had breast cancer and she didn't find it in the regular mammogram. She found it in the ultrasound. This may be something that will help people get it sooner."

Jeanne Parker says it saved her life.

"I think it's wonderful and I really want this machine to be available for everyone," she said.

Tomosynthesis mammography isn't available yet except in this study because it's not FDA approved. But with results like this, Dr. Rose believes it will be soon.

There are still slots available in the trial. It is taking place at the Bobetta Lindig Breast Center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. Women can call 713.242.3700 for more information.


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