Combined Digital Screening for Breast Cancer Makes New Strides

Researchers are hopeful about a new form of combined digital screening for breast cancer, and while it’s not ready for widespread use yet, it could be the screening tool of the near-future.

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer diagnoses (second to skin cancer) for women, and about one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The best treatment for breast cancer starts with early detection. Breast cancer scans can find abnormalities early, often before the cancer has a chance to spread. This helps doctors determine the best course of action for treatment.

But how often should women have breast screenings? And what sort of screening should they ask for, now and in the future, when they might have access to new technologies?

Breast Cancer Screening Schedules According to the American Cancer Society

Women should start having regularly scheduled scans between the ages of 40 and 44, although the American Cancer Society lists this age-range as optional. Women 45 to 54 should definitely have annual scans, and those 55 and older can even opt for scans twice a year. As for the modality of scan, the American Cancer Society generally recommends mammograms. Whether women have mammograms, breast MRI scans, or both, three-quarters of women who are diagnosed don’t have any family history of the disease, which means regular screenings can help save lives.

So what’s the difference between a mammogram and an MRI of the breast? A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast tissue and is the best option to find early signs of breast cancer. An MRI produces a digital picture of the breast without any use of radiation. Often, doctors order MRI scans in conjunction with mammograms for high-risk patients.

New Breast Cancer Screening Technologies for Even Better Detection

Like all other technologies, medical imaging is always evolving and changing. The FDA recently approved a new version of mammography, and it’s already proving effective. Digital breast tomosynthesis, or DBT, is a new imaging option that uses mammography technology to create a 3D picture of the breast. According to one recent study, a combination of digital mammography and tomosynthesis can detect 90 percent more cancers than mammography scans on their own.

The heightened sensitivity of DBT combined with mammography scans allow for a more in-depth results, doubling the solo mammography scan detection success rate from 4.5 per 1,000 cases to 8.6 per 1,000 cases. This success was most notable for small to medium-sized cancers, but did not have as much of an impact on diagnosing larger growths.

Challenges DBT Researchers Are Still Working to Overcome

However, researchers say that doctors must still be cautious with the use of DBT. Doctors are concerned with the possibility of overdiagnosis. Because DBT is so sensitive, it might detect growths that are not dangerous or life-threatening to the patient, leading to unnecessary interventions.

Overdiagnosis is still something researchers are studying. Scientists say that they need to conduct more research on scan results and their impact on mortality before DBT can be entertained as a potential standard test.

The good news is that additional DBT studies are in the works. If DBT proves to be a safe and effective scan, there is the possibility for patients to go longer periods of time between screenings.

Regardless of the type of scan your doctor orders, contact at 888-322-7785 for convenient and affordable access to all of your imaging needs.