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For up to 40 percent of women with dense breast tissue, mammograms just don't cut it, admit experts at the American Cancer Society. That's because sometimes "the glandular tissue is so dense that radiation does penetrate it. You can't see anything." But now, these women might have an awesome new option.
Yesterday, a FDA panel approved the use of an automated ultrasound machine (called the Automated Breast Ultrasound, or ABUS) that would give docs a detailed image of dense breast tissue, helping them better spot tumors.
But how does it work?
According to the manufacturer, U-Systems, the device provides 3-D images of breast tissue and is intended for use along with mammograms, not in place of them.
So, say you're a woman who has dense breasts. You go to your regular mammo, and it comes out benign. Nice. But you feel like something is still amiss ... That's where the ABUS would come into play. It could help these women do a "double-check" to make sure there isn't something malignant. Excitingly, the ABUS could really help increase detection rates in this population that has very few very accurate alternatives.
To be fair, there are critics of the new technology, who claim it will probably lead to more biopsies, but not necessarily better outcomes for women with breast cancer. But I think most of us would prefer to take that risk in order to have new, more, better detection methods.
After all, research shows more screening does lead to higher dectection rates (duh). In fact, a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that annual mammograms combined with ultrasound and MRI significantly increased the detection of breast cancer in more than 2,600 women at higher risk of the disease. That said, making the ABUS available for screening more women definitely sounds like a step in the right direction.
What do you think about this new technology?