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    Top tech advancements improving breast cancer screening


    Beyond tech advancements

    Farha says the future of breast cancer screening will include blood tests that can detect early markers, similar to the prostate-specific antigen test men receive to detect prostate cancer.

    “That will take a long time to develop because studies will have to compete with the standard practices of mammography,” he says.

    Baker says that molecular breast imaging (MBI) is also being developed to detect cancers in women with dense breasts.

    “MBI requires the injection of a radioactive drug, which collects in some breast cancers. The limitation of MBI at the moment is that the radiation dose to the patient is too high at FDA-approved doses to allow it’s use for routine screening. The radiation isn’t as big a problem to the breast but rather to the bowel, the kidneys, and the bladder because of the way the body excretes or gets rid of the sestamibi drug,” Baker says, adding that researchers are working on ways to successfully screen the breast with much lower doses of sestamibi, but more research still needs to be done. “There are also relatively few MBI imaging systems in the country, so if the dose can be made low enough, it will take time for most radiology practices to acquire the equipment to do MBI scans.”

    Breast MRI tools are also being developed for women at high-risk for breast cancer, however, testing takes longer and is more expensive than with other methods, Baker says.

    “Abbreviated screening breast MRI is intended to capture almost all of the same information as a regular breast MRI but in a much shorter time,” Baker says. “Instead of a 30- or 40-minute exam, researchers are working on reducing the time of the exam to 10 to 15 minutes. These shorter studies can be comfortable for the patient but may also be less expensive.”

    Other new tools

    New devices on the market are being created to supplement standard mammography by making patients more comfortable, and focusing on women with dense breasts.

    A mammography device, for example, the Senographe Pristina Dueta, has a wireless remote control that patients can use to apply or release compression of the breast once it has been properly positioned by the examiner.

    “Patient-assisted compression is designed to address one of the main concerns women have for avoiding mammography screening, fear of discomfort, by minimizing patients perceived pain and discomfort by giving them an active role in the application of compression,” says Agnes Berzsenyi, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Women’s Health. “The patient then works with the technologist, who guides the patient while she operates the remote, to adjust compression until she reaches adequate compression.”

    Though the device is available in both 2D and 3D mammography models, the 3D device produces high quality images while emitting the lowest dose of radiation of any 3D mammography device currently available, according to GE Healthcare. Other features include rounded edges and hand rests, and softer lighting to assist with patient relaxation.

    A clinical evaluation of Pristina Dueta at the Women’s Health & Wellness Institute in Boca Raton, Florida, found that compared to images where compression was applied solely by the technologist, patient-assisted compression produces images of similar quality.

    Another device, the SmartCurve system from Hologic, features a curved compression surface that mirrors the shape of a woman’s breast so that it is more comfortable when women undergo the procedure.

    Donna Marbury is a writer in Columbus, Ohio.


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