Every year, more than a million women undergo surgical breast biopsies because doctors are suspicious that a spot might be cancer. In one in every five of those cases, there is no cancer. But several new options were presented this week at the radiological society meeting in Chicago that could eliminate unnecessary biopsies.
The first new machine is a 3-D mammogram. It looks like a standard mammogram, but these images come out 3-D, meaning they can be rotated. So radiologists can tell by the shape of a lump whether or not it's cancer. 3-D digital mammograms are already being sold by General Electric.
Another new technology uses MRI scans and a special chemical that's injected into the breast. The chemical highlights the new blood vessels that only cancerous tumors produce. So the result is a color-coded cancer diagnosis.
"In our technology, red is indicative of malignancy, green is a transitionary phase for a cancerous cell and blue is benign. It means that right after their exam you can tell them there's no need for a biopsy. You have no malignancy, "explained Henry Wyszomiersky. That's called the 3-TP system and it's expected to be available early next year.
A third machine is awaiting FDA approval. It also looks for the tell tale blood vessels that can confirm a cancer. But it doesn't use radiation or inject chemicals. But in this one, the patient lays face down. Then the breast is scanned underneath the table with a laser light. So, any malignancy shows up as the brighter areas in green. While non-cancerous lumps are just blank.
Three new technologies that doctors are hoping will provide quick relief to women that a spot is not cancer, instead of prompting a surgical biopsy just in case.