Breast cancer is the second-most-common cancer among women worldwide. Early detection is critical to successful treatment of the disease. The most common way to detect breast cancer is through mammography, which is an X-ray image of the breast.
However, mammography has its limitations. It may not detect tumors in dense breast tissue, and it can also lead to false-positive results, which means that women may be told they have cancer when they do not. As a result, researchers have been exploring new technologies and approaches to improve breast cancer screening and early detection.
Here are some of the latest advances in breast health screening:
1. 3D mammography: Also called digital breast tomosynthesis, 3D mammography takes pictures of the breast from multiple angles and creates a three-dimensional image. This technology can produce clearer images of the breast, which may help detect tumors that are difficult to see on a traditional two-dimensional mammogram.
2. Breast ultrasound: A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the breast. It may be used as a supplement to mammography for women with dense breast tissue or to get a better look at a suspicious area identified on a mammogram.
3. MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the body. MRI can be used to screen high-risk women or to get a more accurate look at suspicious areas detected on a mammogram.
4. Molecular breast imaging: This technology, also called breast-specific gamma imaging or BSGI, uses a small amount of radioactive material to create images of the breast. It may be used to examine suspicious areas detected on a mammogram or to screen high-risk women.
5. Thermography: This screening method uses infrared imaging to detect temperature changes in the breast. Cancer cells produce more heat than normal cells, so thermography may detect abnormal areas of heat that could be a sign of cancer. However, this method is not widely used and has not been proven to be as effective as other screening methods.
In addition to these technological advances, there are also new approaches being explored to improve breast cancer screening. For example, some researchers are working on developing blood tests that could detect breast cancer at an early stage. Others are looking at ways to identify biomarkers, or specific molecular changes associated with breast cancer, that could be used as indicators of the disease.
It’s important to note that while these new technologies and approaches show promise, mammography is still considered the gold standard for breast cancer screening. If you are at average risk for breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends mammograms every year starting at age 45. Women at higher risk may need to start screening earlier or have more frequent screening.
Ultimately, the goal of all breast cancer screening is to detect the disease early, when it is most treatable. While mammography is still the most widely used screening tool, it’s exciting to see new technologies and approaches emerge that could help improve the accuracy and effectiveness of breast cancer detection.