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Mammogram, Ultrasound Together Improve Breast Cancer Detection

Armen Hareyan's picture

The combination of mammogram and ultrasound testing can find more breast cancers.

A study funded by Avon Foundation and the National Cancer Institute examined 2600 women high risk women who have previously had breast cancer. Women passed both mammogram and ultrasound testing. Mammograms only found breast tumors in 8 out of 1000 women, when ultrasound was added the number of breast tumors found became 12 out of 1000.

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Mammogram and ultrasound together detected 78% of breast tumors. Ultrasound also detected many suspicious spots, 90% of which were found not to be dangerous. This adds many useless biopsies and leads to anxiety.

Mammogram-ultrasound seems to be a successful combination, but researchers say this testing must be done for women at high risk only, because the biopsies occurring because of suspicious spots are harming. Besides, ultrasound takes too much time from doctors. It can take up to an hour for a doctor to complete 3 ultrasounds. Meanwhile at the same time a doctor can complete 50 mammograms.

American Cancer Society recommends mammogram and breast exam combination each year for women older than 40. High risk women are advised to combine mammograms with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to have higher chances for having breast tumors detected early, because this combination can detect 93% of tumors.

However, MRI testing is not so easy to perform, because some women have allergy on dye. Besides, the test is expensive - the MRI alone costs $1000, compared to $90 for mammogram and ultrasound for each. Mammogram-ultrasound combined testing comes as an alternative screening for high risk women to detect breast cancer earlier.