Some tools under study for breast cancer screening and early detection are discussed below.
Three-dimensional (3D) mammography (also called breast tomosynthesis) is becoming more widely available and may be considered for breast cancer screening. Some studies have shown 3D mammography may find a few more breast cancers than 2D mammography [6-10]. However, whether 3D mammography is better than standard 2D mammography for breast cancer screening is still under study [6-10].
3D mammography is also under study for use in breast cancer diagnosis and staging.
Other tools under study are discussed below. More research is needed to know whether these tools may play a role in breast cancer screening for all women or certain groups of women at higher risk.
Nuclear medicine breast imaging (also called molecular breast imaging) uses short-term radioactive agents (called a tracer). The tracer is given by vein (through an IV) and is absorbed into tissues, including the breast.
Breast cancer cells appear to absorb more of the tracer than healthy cells. The cancer cells can then be imaged with a special camera.
Nuclear medicine breast imaging is under study for use in breast cancer screening, diagnosis and staging. Some studies are looking at the combination of nuclear medicine breast imaging and mammography for screening women with dense breasts .
A woman getting nuclear medicine breast imaging is positioned in a similar way as with mammography. Each breast is pressed between two plates and the machine takes images.
Two types of nuclear medicine imaging techniques are:
A main concern about the use of BSGI and PEM for screening is, even with modern machines, they give a dose of radiation 2-15 times higher than the dose from a mammogram [78-79]. Because the radiation is delivered through an IV, other parts of the body (not just the breasts) are exposed to the radiation. Ways to lower the amount of radiation exposure are under study .
Although still under study, BSGI and PEM are used in clinical practice, but are not part of breast cancer screening guidelines and are not widely available.
If you're interested in joining a clinical trial studying new screening methods, talk with your health care provider.
BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen® offers a custom matching service to help you find a clinical trial on breast cancer screening.
Learn more about clinical trials.
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Komen funds research looking at new methods of early detection.
One new method is breast ultrasound tomography, a tool that uses ultrasound technology. Breast ultrasound tomography may give information on breast density by measuring the speed that sound waves travel through the breast .
Komen is also funding research on the use of molecular breast imaging for screening women with dense breasts.
Learn about the latest research on breast ultrasound tomography, molecular breast imaging and other topics that Komen is funding in our Stories of Discovery.
Thermography uses infrared light to measure temperature differences on the surface of the breast. Breast cancer may cause abnormal heat patterns. However, there’s no solid scientific evidence thermography measures of heat can help find breast cancers .
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American College of Radiology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) do not view thermography as useful for breast screening [8,77,82].
In 2011, the FDA issued an alert warning the public about misleading claims by thermography practitioners and manufacturers on the screening benefits of the tool . To read the full alert, visit the FDA website.
Facts for Life: Breast Imaging Methods
Research Fast Facts: Early Detection
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