New Screening Method Helps Doctors Detect Cancer in Dense Breast Tissue

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Cancer screening at the University of Virginia Health System Cancer screening at the University of Virginia Health System
Carrie Rochman Carrie Rochman

Mammograms are often used to detect breast cancer in men and women, but they are only accurate for about 50 percent of patients.

Whole breast ultrasound was developed to help radiologists see cancers that don't show up on mammograms for people with dense breast tissue.

Doctors can tell tissue density after reading a mammogram. If they're concerned there could be something they're missing because of visibility issues they will order this second ultrasound screening.

Radiologists say this new technology that lays over the breast and screens it into a 3-D image really helps to see masses that are in and surrounded by dense tissue.

“So this is really good at finding invasive breast cancer, which is what we want to find, and it’s really good at finding cancers that are small, that aren't something that we can feel. The cancers that are found with screening ultrasound are often... the lymph nodes are still negative, so it’s an early treatment to cancer,” said Dr. Carrie Rochman.

With any additional screening there are risks of false positives or benign masses that could require a biopsy to confirm.

Radiologists say people should weigh the costs and benefits before deciding to screen more.

Radiologists say more insurance companies have started covering the screenings, but it’s always best to check with your insurance before requesting ultrasound.