DETECTION: The most common tests performed to screen for breast cancer are mammograms and clinical breast exams. A mammogram is essentially an X-ray of the breast that can detect tumors that are too small to pick up in a manual exam. Mammograms are less likely to find tumors in women younger than 50. A clinical breast exam is a manual exam performed by a physician. If a doctor finds a lump or anything unusual, ultrasound may be used to aid in diagnosis of breast cancer.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer to create a series of pictures of the breast. This type of screening has been shown to be more sensitive than mammography in finding tumors in women with a high inherited risk of breast cancer, although false positives are common with MRI.
A CT, or computerized tomography, scan is an X-ray technique that gathers information about the body in 2-dimensional cross-sections. While not yet used routinely to evaluate the breast, doctors in some cases use CT scans to assess whether or not breast cancer has moved into the chest wall. A CT scan may also be ordered to examine other parts of the body where cancer has spread (Source: Breastcancer.org).
3-D CT FOR BREAST CANCER: Radiologists at Emory University are conducting three studies using a new CT technology that utilizes cone-shaped X-ray beams and a digital flat panel detector to produce 3-D images. In one trial, they are comparing the new breast CT scan with diagnostic mammography as a tool for detecting cancer. In a second trial, they are comparing CT scans enhanced with contrast dye with MRI in the evaluation of newly diagnosed breast cancers. In another study, they are examining the effectiveness of breast CT scans in tracking how tumors are responding to chemo treatment. The new technology enables researchers to reconstruct a breast image from any angle and use computer processing to focus in on calcification. The CT may end up being used alone for routine screenings or in combination with other technologies for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
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Emory Winship Cancer Institute