Carestream Mammography Expert Highlights Need for Nationwide Screening Protocol for U.S. Women with Dense Breasts

Breast Ultrasound, Breast MRI and Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Can Play Important Role in Breast Cancer Detection

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Oct. 8 — Increased awareness of the importance of mammography screening and new imaging modalities that can help with early detection are vital tools in the continuing battle against breast cancer, notes Anne Richards, Carestream’s Clinical Development Manager for Women’s Healthcare.

Richards said that one of the current challenges in the United States is to develop a nationwide screening protocol for women with dense breasts and to establish insurance guidelines for payment of additional imaging exams for these patients. “The American Cancer Society has identified risk factors that can lead to a higher incidence of breast cancer including a family history of cancer and having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. The ACR also reports that having dense breasts produces a ‘moderately increased risk’ of breast cancer.”

She reports that women with dense breasts created “a grassroots movement” that spurred greater discussion among the medical community of which imaging technologies should be used for screening patients with dense breasts. “We now have advanced technologies such as breast ultrasound, breast MRI and digital breast tomosynthesis that each offer distinctly different advantages for viewing calcifications and detecting cancer,” said Richards. “The medical community needs to work with organizations like the ACS and others to help determine the criteria physicians should use to recommend which modality or modalities should be used for screening or follow up imaging studies for women with dense breasts.”

She said that radiologists also need to be trained in diagnosing cancer using each of these modalities. “Breast ultrasound offers different views of the breast, for example, where digital breast tomosynthesis allows radiologists to view 1 millimeter slices of breast tissue. Each technology has its own merits, but training is required to maximize the confidence and accuracy of radiologists using each imaging system.”  

Richards believes that screening mammograms remain an important tool in the detection and treatment of breast cancer. “Screening mammography is essential because about 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. Their primary risk factor is being a woman,” she said. “The good news is that death rates have been decreasing since 1990, especially in women under 50. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness. However the bad news is that breast cancerdeath rates for U.S. women are second only to lung cancer. So there is room for improvement in both the detection and treatment of this disease.”

She also recognized improved screening rates among American women in all ethnic groups. According to a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70 percent of white and African-American women—and 69.7 percent of Hispanic women— aged 50 to 74 years reported they had a mammogram in the last two years. “These numbers represent significant improvement in mammography screenings especially for non-white American women, which has been a major goal over the past 10 to 20 years.”  

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