New ultrasound screening methods for breast cancer

in Cancer

 One of the methods to screen breast cancer is based on the suspicious findings of mammography which is the first choice and it has been found that only 30% of lesions turn out be malignant. Apart from this, dense breast tissue not only increases the risk of developing cancer but also makes a standard mammography procedure difficult.

Hence considering the shortcomings of diagnostic procedures a more convincing method needs to be administered to reach an accurate conclusion about the disease.

What are the advantages of ultrasound?

  • Helps distinguish between a solid mass and a cyst filled with fluid, as most breast lesions are fluid filled cysts.
  • Determines extremely small lesions which are otherwise not felt by hand during clinical examination.
  • Determines the presence of solid nodules along with any liquid mass or combination of the two.
  • Gives a clear evidence of shape and size of lesion along with specified margins or edges, which further helps understanding benign or malignant nature of cancer.
  • More convenient, safe, trusted and equally cost effective.
  • Reduces a need for unwanted biopsies and chances of patient trauma associated with wrong diagnosis.

Drawbacks of existing ultrasonic techniques

Our biological tissues have varying sound speeds as they are located on different areas of the body. This accounts for the distortion in the sound waves which take place when they arrive back towards the detector and hence they may be suggestive of imaging errors and abnormal findings.

Mechanism of new ultrasound to generate diagnosis

The recent method developed at cancer center Seattle works on the principle of detecting the intensity of ultrasound waves. This intensity when converted to heat is sensed by the thin membrane of pyroelectric film, after which a voltage output dependent upon the temperature rise is generated. Hence image detectors working on this new technique are certainly less susceptible to uneven sound speed and its effects.

As a trial method, use of single detectors was proven successful in producing more reliable maps of internal artefacts as compared to the existing technique. As positive results are attained using this technique, the cancer center Seattle is working to introduce a device with an array of 20 sensors allowing a faster and convenient screening and implement it the clinical system.

Suggestive findings of breast ultrasound

  • Echoes from benign fibrous nodules – indicates papillomas, fibroadenomas or breast fibrocystic disease when the sound is blocked by a solid nodule.
  • Sonographic indications of ‘complex cyst’.
  • Suspicious lesion – indicating likelihood of malignancy.
  • Lesion highly suggestive of cancer.

Ultrasound combined with MRI or Biopsy

  • Helps in follow up assessment of lesions detected on mammography.
  • A detailed MRI aides further treatment decisions.
  • Guides the needle during follow up biopsy.
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New ultrasound screening methods for breast cancer

This article was published on 2012/08/06