How molecular breast imaging works
Mammograms have been responsible for alerting hundreds of thousands of women of the presence of breast cancer, but a new test is even more effective for women with dense breasts.
The process, called molecular breast imaging, is performed in conjunction with a traditional mammogram and helps identify cancer that test may have missed.
It is estimated that half of all women have dense breasts, and in their mammograms tissue shows up white, the same color as a tumor. This makes it difficult to distinguish if cancer is present or not. Using MBI, patients are injected with a tracer that seeks out cancer cells, making them more easily visible on test result scans.
A study of MBI’s effectiveness found that in 1,696 women with dense breasts, 13 traces of cancer were found even after mammograms were negative.
“That’s a significant amount of extra cancers,” Dr. Robin Shermis, one of the study’s authors, told Health Care Business News. “We found them early and they would have otherwise gone undetected by mammography.”
The test does expose women to higher doses of radiation than a regular mammogram, but Shermis said women must decide if that is worth the possibility of an earlier cancer detection.
“Six thousand women, who know the benefits and risks, have yet to say ‘I don’t want it,’” Shermis said.