New breast cancer screening technique may reduce biopsies

Sept. 29, 2013 at 8:50 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A new breast cancer screening technique has the potential to reduce false positives and, possibly, minimize the need for biopsies, U.S. researchers say.

Electrical engineer Neal Bangerter and University of Utah collaborators Rock Hadley and Joshua Kaggie, created a magnetic resonance imaging device that could improve both the process and accuracy of breast cancer screening by scanning for sodium levels in the breast.

"The images we're obtaining show a substantial improvement over anything that we've seen using this particular MRI technique for breast cancer imaging," Bangerter, the study's senior author, said in a statement

The study, published in the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, said the device was producing as much as five-times more accurate images than previous efforts with an emerging methodology called sodium MRI.

There are two clinical imaging methods widely used for screening breast cancer: mammograms and proton MRI scans. X-ray mammography is the most common screening tool, but the procedure involves X-ray exposure and is generally unpleasant. Mammograms are relatively inexpensive, but they still lead to invasive biopsies when something suspicious is detected, Bangerter said.

Because of their increased sensitivity, proton MRI scans are generally used to further examine suspicious areas found by mammograms. However, they can produce false positives leading to unnecessary interventions such as biopsies.

Sodium MRI has the potential to improve assessment of breast lesions because sodium concentrations are thought to increase in malignant tumors.

Bangerter and his team said the addition of sodium MRI to a breast cancer screening exam could provide important additional diagnostic information that would cut down on false positives.

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