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Best Breast Test: Six Rated Breast Cancer Exam Choices

Tim Boyer's picture
Breast Self Exam

The best breast test for breast cancer exam detection is still the mammogram according to a health news article written by a U. Penn breast imaging specialist Alison L. Chetlen, an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology in the Hershey Breast Center, who breaks down the options women have over a of a range of breast cancer detection systems. The following is a quick summary of what’s available and how they rate.


The mammogram is rated as the only imaging method that has a proven track record of decreasing death through early detection of breast cancer. From mammogram research spanning 30 years, the most comprehensive study involved a million women over a 16-year time period. The result of the study was that mammograms led to a 29 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths of women ages 40 to 49.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, Society of Breast Imaging, and American Society of Breast Disease all recommend that women should begin annual mammogram exams at age 40.

Breast Ultrasound and MRI
Breast ultrasound and MRI exams are the backup tests when a mammogram reveals a suspicious looking image. However, combining a mammogram with an MRI has consistently proved to outperform mammography with ultrasound. The American Cancer Society recommends that women with a high risk of developing breast cancer should undergo a mammogram with an MRI screen.

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Molecular Breast Imaging
Molecular breast imaging, also known as breast-specific gamma imaging, involves intravenous injections of radiopharmaceutical agents that target the breast tissues, which are then viewed by a special camera. The camera provides high-resolution images that reveal areas where the radioactive agents indicate high metabolic activity that may be due to a cancer developing.

Positron Emission Mammography
Positron emission mammography (PEM) is another injectable radioisotope procedure where gamma radiation detectors are placed above and below a compressed breast. While PEM has been used to detect large tumors, it generally is less successful at detecting smaller tumors. The radioisotope procedures are still in their infancy and cannot be used to replace mammography or tissue biopsy for diagnostic purposes.

Breast Thermography
Breast Thermography is a heat measuring method that produces an image of the breast showing the pattern of temperatures at or near the surface of a breast. Due to inappropriate claims made by thermography facilities, the FDA issued a safety communication this year warning to women and health care providers that thermography is not a safe alternative to mammography. The claims made by thermography facilities promoted thermography as a replacement for mammography. The American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and Society of Breast Imaging state that no studies have ever shown that thermography is an effective screening tool for early breast cancer detection and it should not be used as a substitute for mammography.

Source: Penn State Live; The Medical Minute: Breast Cancer Screening http://live.psu.edu/story/55392
Image source of a Breast self-exam: Wikipedia