November 10, 2010

Technology Combo Speeds Up Breast Cancer Scanning

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Getting recalled for subsequent mammograms causes a lot of women considerable stress each year.  Thankfully, differentiating cancerous breast lesions from benign ones could soon become an easier and quicker process for radiologists.

Researchers at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in Boston recently found that a combination of optical and x-ray imaging technologies can simultaneously gather the structural and functional information needed to make this distinction.  The technologies include digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), which creates 3D images from digital mammographic scans, and diffuse optical tomography, (DOT) which gathers data concerning hemoglobin levels, oxygen saturation and other cellular traits. 

Analyzing data from both technologies can help ""¦map suspicious findings and analyze the functional characteristics of those areas," lead researcher Quianqian Fang PH.D. was quoted as saying.

The study scanned 189 breasts of 125 women aged at an average of 56 years.  By applying optical source and detector probes to a DBT unit and compressing the breast, the researchers were able to gather optical data.  The researchers then took the optical probes off of the breast without interfering with the compression, and ran a DBT scan.

One-hundred twenty-eight out of the 189 studies were negative, but 51 of them found evidence lesions and cysts.  Twenty-six of these lesions proved to be malignant.

With the expansive data gathered by the optical and x-ray scans, the researchers had enough evidence to confirm this differentiation.  For example, levels of total hemoglobin concentration (HbT) were substantially higher in the normal tissue of the same breast containing malignant tumors, but this high HbT contrast was not seen in the benign cases.

Levels of oxygen saturation were substantially lower in cysts than in malignant lesions, their solid benign counterparts, and normal, glandular breast tissue.

"Although cysts are easy to diagnose using ultrasound, distinguishing cysts from malignant or benign lesions during a mammogram would save women the anxiety and costs associated with a second procedure," Dr. Fang said.  "We are hopeful that this combined system may help improve the efficiency and diagnostic accuracy of breast screening."

SOURCE: Radiology, November 2010