Optoacoustics technology offers 'less invasive' option for breast biopsies

April 26, 2014

When 3-year-old Kadin is around, her grandma Roz Sobel is always playing something.

"I am blessed by all my grandchildren, but this one's got me," Sobel said.

She's needed the distraction. A few months ago, doctors found a lump on Sobel's mammogram. It was a scary moment for a woman whose mother, grandmother, sister, cousin and niece all had breast cancer.

"My family has a horrible history," Sobel said.

Typically, women like Sobel will need a painful needle biopsy to determine if the lump is cancerous. But she took part in a clinical trial testing a new technology called Optoacoustics.

"The thought is that this will help us determine what's cancer and what's not cancer," said Paulette Lebda, MD, Breast Radiologist at The Cleveland Clinic.

An ultrasound with a laser is used to look at the distribution of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood in the lump. It's essentially a blood map for doctors.

"Usually, benign breast masses can have a different blood profile, or blood map, than cancerous masses," Lebda said.

Studies have shown the technique could reduce the number of biopsies by 40 percent, which was music to Sobel's ears.

It turned out her lump was caused by a dog jumping on her, not cancer.

"They knew right then and there that it was from the dog," Sobel said.

With the Optoacoustics technology, there's no radiation, no needle, no pain and no risk to the patient.

The Optoacoustics technology is being studied in a clinical trial at 16 centers around the country. It will not replace mammograms, but may decrease the need for invasive biopsies by distinguishing cancerous from noncancerous breast masses through imaging.

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