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Breast cancer detection is critical - about one woman in every eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
We have never before been in such a powerful position for early breast cancer detection and fighting the disease. In the past decade, there has been an explosion of breast cancer detection tools aiding in diagnosing and treating breast cancer. We want all patients to make themselves aware of their breast cancer detection options.
3D Digital Mammography
3D mammography, also known as breast Tomosynthesis exams, is very similar to traditional 2-dimensional digital mammogram and requires similar compression and positioning of the breast. During the 3D mammogram exam, a series of image “slices” are taken through the breast providing the ability to review each volume of the breast, slice by slice.
3D mammography is a promising new breast cancer detection technology, only quite recently approved by the FDA. SMIL was actively involved in some of the early research and was one of the first radiology groups in the nation to introduce this latest advance in breast cancer detection. It is hoped that 3D mammography will ultimately provide higher breast cancer detection and fewer callbacks although national guidelines are not yet established. Learn more about 3D mammograms.
In conjunction with mammography, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is utilized for patients at high-risk for breast cancer (strong family history or known BRCA gene carrier). In fact, breast MRI has been proven to reduce mortality (death rates from breast cancer) in these patients.
Breast MRI is also used as a staging test for patients with newly diagnosed cancer. If a patient has more than a 20 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommended annual MRI in addition to mammography.
MRI provides both anatomic and physiologic information about the breast. It cannot only show masses like a mammogram, it can also show difference in physiologic activity and differences in blood flow from the breast.
Breast MRI is more sensitive than mammography or ultrasound, allowing our Arizona radiologists to detect breast cancer earlier. It also allows doctors to accurately stage the true extent of disease in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. This is important, since 5 to 20 percent of breast cancer patients will have more than one focus of disease in their breasts at the time of initial diagnosis. Detecting the full extent of disease is critical to achieving a cure, the ultimate goal. Learn more about breast MRI.
In many cases, it is not possible to tell from breast imaging studies alone whether a lesion is benign or malignant. It is sometimes necessary to also obtain a tissue sample for breast cancer detection.
Rather than a patient having to undergo surgery, breast imaging radiologists can now perform a variety of minimally invasive biopsies, which have become one of the most significant advances in diagnosing breast tumors to date. These breast cancer detection biopsy procedures generally involve only a tiny incision – just large enough to insert a needle. They are performed in an outpatient setting, providing the patient an accurate and quickest possible breast diagnosis. Learn more about breast biopsy.
Positron Emission Mammography (PEM) is a highly sensitive molecular imaging exam that can theoretically detect breast cancers as small as a grain of rice. During this breast cancer detection procedure, a sugar-based radiotracer is injected through an IV. Cancer cells absorb and accumulate sugar much faster than normal tissues, which mean cancerous tumors stand out conspicuously.
PEM is often used as a complement to breast MRI in breast cancer detection. Combining the two studies provides the highest overall accuracy rates in detecting breast cancer and characterizing malignant tissues in the breast. This information allows physicians to determine the best treatment options in newly diagnosed cancer patients. In some patients who cannot undergo breast MRI (due to heart pacers, other implants or claustrophobia), PEM is an excellent standalone tool for breast cancer staging. Learn more about PEM.
Breast Nurse Navigators
One of the newest services available to patients is the breast navigator program. This program exists to support, educate and empower individuals throughout their breast care journey – from breast cancer detection to treatment. The service benefits not only the patient facing newly diagnosed breast cancer but also those facing the prospect of further breast cancer detection testing.
As many breast cancer patients will attest, once a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, her world is often turned upside down and can become a scary, emotional and confusing time. This is where the Breast Nurse Navigators step in to fulfill this vital role in the breast cancer diagnosis and treatment process.
These uniquely certified nurses help breast cancer patients navigate through the myriad of clinical appointments, breast cancer imaging studies and the often-overwhelming complex array of options and technologies that are presented to them.
It is important to patients to understand their specific diagnosis and what the next steps are in the staging and treatment process, so they can make the appropriate decisions for their own health. Additionally, research has shown that patients’ anxiety levels are substantially decreased when they better understand the process, feel supported and have an advocate who cares and understands. Learn more about our breast screening nurse navigator program.