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Breast CT Scans Could Be Comfortable Alternative to Mammograms
Date:8/1/2008

Newer technique didn't squeeze breasts, still spotted lesions, study finds

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- For women who find traditional mammograms painful, new research suggests there may one day be a more comfortable alternative.

Breast CT scans showed some advantages over traditional mammograms, said study author John Boone, vice chairman of radiology at the University of California Davis Medical Center. He presented the findings this week at the American Association of Physicists in Medicine annual meeting, in Houston.

"Breast cancer shows up on a mammogram or imaging in two different ways -- a mass lesion or a spot," Boone explained. These spots are called microcalcifications, and they can signal the beginnings of a tumor.

In the CT breast exam, the scanner rotates around the breast to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast. The total radiation dose in the scan Boone used is the same as in a conventional mammogram, he said. In this study, 160 women were screened this way.

But the breasts are not compressed between plates, as in a traditional mammogram. Instead, the woman lies face down on a special table with one breast suspended through an opening.

"We feel the breast CT was superior to traditional mammography for mass lesions, but mammography remains superior over breast CT for microcalcifications," he said.

Several other centers are also studying breast CT, he noted. The role of breast CT is evolving, Boone said, and will depend on continuing research and how it bears out.

In his research, Boone and his colleagues have also began to study another prototype device which incorporates a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner into the CT scanner. The PET scanner can track the metabolic activity of a tumor, if present, so doctors can pinpoint the tumor and evaluate the effect of treatment.

Breast CT scans may be widely available in three to fiv
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