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Contrast mammography reveals hard-to-find cancers

OAK BROOK, Ill. A new technique accurately identifies breast cancers that are difficult to detect with conventional mammography, according to a study appearing in the October issue of the journal Radiology.

"The dual-energy contrast-enhanced digital subtraction mammography technique is feasible for hard-to-demonstrate breast cancers and is worthy of further study," said the study's lead author, John M. Lewin, M.D. Dr. Lewin is an associate professor of radiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, and director of breast imaging research and co-director of breast imaging at the University of Colorado Hospital Breast Center in Aurora.

Conventional mammography misses 10 percent to 20 percent of breast cancers, including 9 percent of those that can be felt during physical examination.

Dual-energy, contrast-enhanced digital subtraction mammography involves the injection of a contrast agent to highlight new blood vessel development that accompanies malignant growth. Two images are taken at different energy levels and subtracted from one another to disclose the tumor. Similar techniques are being successfully employed in other areas of radiology.

"We expect that dual-energy, contrast-enhanced digital subtraction mammography will become an alternative to breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in evaluating difficult to interpret mammograms or for screening women who have an elevated risk for breast cancer," Dr. Lewin said. "This technique may also be useful for examining breasts of women who have already been diagnosed with one cancer to identify potential undetected malignancies," he added.

For the study, the researchers used dual-energy, contrast-enhanced digital subtraction mammography to evaluate 26 patients whose mammograms or breast exams warranted a biopsy.

"By using a contrast agent with digital mammography, we were able to see cancers that were invisible on conventional mammography.
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Contact: Maureen Morley
mmorley@rsna.org
630-590-7754
Radiological Society of North America
30-Sep-2003


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