Ultrasound Technique For Breast Cancer Detection Could Replace Biopsies

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breast cancerA new ultrasound technique is so good at helping a doctor determine whether a patient has breast cancer that it may eventually replace biopsies altogether, say researchers from Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, USA. The new research was presented at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, by Dr. Richard Barr, professor of radiology.

The ultrasound technique is called elastography or real-time, free hand elasticity imaging. In an experiment involving 59 patients, they found this technique helped researchers distinguish harmless lumps from harmful (malignant) ones in 100% of cases - in other words, the technique appears to be 100% accurate. The technique correctly identified 16 out of 16 cancerous tumors and 56 out of 56 benign ones.

A further, larger study is needed to confirm the findings of this study, say the researchers. If a larger study confirms this, the fear, stress and anxiety, cost, discomfort and pain, and waiting, by thousands of women who have to undergo biopsies, could be eliminated. In the USA alone, almost one million biopsies are performed annually on suspected breast cancer patients - in 80% of cases the lumps are harmless (benign, the person does not have breast cancer).

The cost savings would not only relate to the biopsy itself, which can by up to $900, but also the work-time lost by the patient. An elastography would probably cost around one to two hundred dollars and the results would be there and then, while-you-wait.

(A biopsy is when cells are taken from the breast. A scientists looks at them under a microscope to decide whether they are cancerous or not. They cells are taken out, either with a scalpel or a needle).

Elastography may have uses in helping prostate and thyroid cancer treatment, as well as diagnosing damage to the heart, say the researchers.

Elastography differs from traditional ultrasound in that it also gauges movement - it can distinguish between stiff and soft tissue (soft tissue looks lighter while hard tissue looks darker).

source - Medical News Today 

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