In the past few years there has been a surge in research in improving breast cancer screening. In particular, there has been a special interest in trying to improve detection of breast cancer in women with dense breasts. Studies have shown that performing breast ultrasound, MRI, or molecular breast imaging with a screening mammogram in women with dense breasts have detected more cancers. The drawback is that they also find many more benign masses, leading to more biopsies and false positives.
Breast density legislation is expected to pass in the state of Michigan which will require mammography facilities to inform women who have dense breasts. These women can then have a conversation with their physician about supplemental screening exams to have in addition to a mammogram. This is particularly true in women who have additional risk factors.
The easiest, least costly, and most available test without extra radiation is an ultrasound. MidMichigan Health offers breast ultrasound performed by specialized and trained ultrasound technologists. These technologists use a handheld device that enables them to see images of the breast tissue in real time and adjust the beam to more clearly see areas of concern.
Breast ultrasound is also now available through an automated device called ABUS, or automated breast ultrasound. While this technology provides a way to quickly do the procedure without using a lot of manpower or time, it does not have the ability to manipulate the ultrasound beam in the same way that a trained technologist would. In addition, studies proving the benefit of ultrasound were done only using hand held real time ultrasound by a professional. Therefore, at this point in time we feel that the handheld screening ultrasound with trained technologists is the better choice for our patients.
ABUS is a tool that we may consider in the future as more research becomes available and if the volume of screening breast ultrasound significantly increases.
If you have any questions regarding supplemental screening tests please call the Center for Women’s Health at (989) 837-9070.
Lindsay Zeeb, M.D., board-certified diagnostic radiologist, is the medical director of Breast Imaging and the Center for Women’s Health at MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland. As a breast imaging specialist, Dr. Zeeb reads and interprets the images produced by mammography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) then makes recommedations for further diagnotic testing and treament. She also conducts image-guided breast biopsies. She believes that patients play a pivotal role in the battle against breast cancer and that keeping up with yearly mammograms can help diagnose cancer early, when it is most curable.