Breast Cancer Screening: Maximizing Detection

May 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

Screening-trials-graphicInitially, breast cancer screening seemed straightforward: find tumors as early as possible, when they are easiest to treat. But as scientists have learned more about the different types of breast cancer, it’s become increasingly clear that breast cancer screening is about more than finding cancer cells: It’s about finding tumors that have the potential to be deadly. This realization has raised questions—yet again—about the use of mammography screening.

Breast cancer screening was first introduced in the mid-1960s. Controversy over its benefits and risks dates back to that time, too. Dr. Barron Lerner, a professor at New York University Langone School of Medicine, explained it this way in a report he wrote for the Institute of Medicine in 2001:

By the late 1970s, mammography had diffused much more widely but had become a source of tremendous controversy. On the one hand, advocates of the technology enthusiastically touted its ability to detect smaller, more curable cancers. On the other hand, critics asked whether breast x-rays, particularly for women aged 50 and younger, actually caused more harm than benefit. As of the year 2000, despite the publication of hundreds of research studies, this dispute persists.”

Fourteen years later, these controversies continue to persist. The age at which women should begin screening continues to be debated. And new disputes have arisen over issues ranging from how frequently women should be screened to how to define ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to screening protocols for women with dense breast tissue.

Researchers are hoping that improved screening technologies can help move the debate forward. The BCT Quick View for Screening Trials, includes studies of new techniques, such as:

  • SoftVue imaging, which involves submerging the breast in warm water during an ultrasound procedure, to identify breast tumors
  • Near Infrared Spectroscopy, which uses light beams to produce a picture of breast tissue
  • dtectDX Blood Testwhich measure biomarkers that have been associated with breast cancer.
  • Tomosynthesis, an FDA approved technique that creates a 3-D image of the breast.

If these trials are successful, they have the potential to give women and their doctors new options for breast cancer detection.

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Entry filed under: Screening.

Personalized Breast Screening Seek And You Shall Find

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