f01a.jpg (11980 bytes)Mammography remains the undisputed champion when it comes to searching for breast cancer. But despite its exalted status, the X-ray-based imaging technique is not perfect. Especially in the eyes of Danish researchers who recently fortified their position, based on a meta-analysis of published clinical trials, that screening mammography does not reduce mortality. Far from it, experts say, with just an 80 percent detection rate. Although that number is higher for women with fatty breasts, some say the detection rate falls below 50 percent in women with dense breasts.

To back up mammography, physicians can chose from a variety of other imaging modalities to help them. Some adjuncts, like ultrasound, are well-established; others, such as electrical impedance, are struggling for acceptance. But all have their strengths and limitations, experts say, and their roles are shifting. In the coming years, some will likely find greater utility, while others may fade away.

Next in line
Ultrasound devices stand alongside mammography units in three-fourths of the nation’s breast imaging centers, according to GE Medical Systems Ultrasound Division (GEMS of Waukesha, Wis.). “They work in a complementary fashion,” says Jeff Peiffer, GEMS manager of America’s ultrasound marketing. “Anytime you have a suspicious lesion, ultrasound is the only imaging modality to tell you whether it’s a cyst or not.”

Please refer to the November 2001 issue for the complete story. For information on article reprints, contact Martin St. Denis