Great news for women living in countries that provide poor access to mammography – ultrasound was found to be equally effective; plus, ultrasound could be a lifesaver in some breast cancer cases, a team of researchers noted.
The team found that ultrasound detection rate is more effective in node-negative invasive cancers than mammograms. In this type of cancers, cancerous cells have not yet invaded the lymph nodes but they have spread beyond the original tumor.
Nevertheless, there is also a disadvantage to ultrasound — it sometimes detects cancer when there is absolutely none more than mammography does.
Researchers do not expect their findings to cause a major shift in how breast cancer patients are screened in the U.S. Ultrasound could at most be used as a supplemental screening test, they believe.
Dr. Lusi Tumyan, one of the scientists who reviewed the new research paper but was not involved in the research, argued that there isn’t solid evidence that ultrasound could benefit patients with an average risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr. Tumyan believes that it is best for women to asses their risk with their doctors and decide together what the best screening method would be in their particular case.
Currently, ultrasounds are conducted after a tumor was detected via mammography or physical examination. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends this practice because ultrasound is more accessible and less invasive.
The recent study, which was published Monday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, engaged more than 2,600 female patients from the U.S., Argentina, and Canada that underwent ultrasound and mammography for at least three years annually.
Nearly all women had been diagnosed with dense breast tissue before they were involved in the study. The condition is considered one of the factors that may lead to breast cancer.
Different teams of doctors interpreted the scans of the study participants. By the time the study was over, about 100 women learned they had cancer. Doctors found that detection rates were equal for both investigation methods, but ultrasound falsely detected cancer in more cases than mammogram did.
This is why researchers concluded that clinicians could find more breast cancers in low-risk patients with dense breasts if mammograms are followed by ultrasound.
In the U.S., screening procedures vary from state to state and between clinics. According to the ACS, women who hit their 40s should start screening if they have a family history of cancer or they have a lifestyle that boosts their risk to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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