New Developments to Fight Breast Cancer
Half of Americans are diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. According the National Cancer Institute, 192,370 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, and more than 40,000 women will die from it this year alone. Medical physicists are leading the fight against breast cancer with the development of new imaging technologies and improving existing techniques.
Mammography, the most common method for detecting breast cancer, misses up to 20 percent of breast cancer present at the time of the screening, particularly women with dense breast tissue. Women with dense tissue are recommended to undergo a very expensive technique, magnetic resonance imaging, to detect cancer. The mayo clinic in Rochester, MN has developed a less expensive “molecular imaging” method to detect breast cancer in dense tissue through radioactive tracers. A new study supported by the Susan G. Komen Foundation will test whether the technique can be effective in small doses; the study will begin to enroll 1,000 women in a few months.
Women use mammograms as a very valuable tool to detect breast cancer, although the X-rays pose a minor risk of damaging DNA and causing future secondary malignancies. A technology using a sensitive device to detect single photons may allow doctors to lower the X-ray dose women receive during a mammogram. European clinical trials a couple years ago have proven this technique could lower radiation doses by half, still effectively detecting cancers.
A new technique to detect breast cancer is more comfortable than mammograms, eliminating the pain and giving women fewer excuses to avoid screenings. Based on computed technology (CT), the method has a woman lie face down on a special table, with one breast suspended into a cone beam breast CT scanner. Radiation doses are equivalent to a mammogram. Researchers are currently testing the effectiveness of the comfortable detection.
SOURCE: 51st annual meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, July 26 ““ 30, 2009, in Anaheim, CA