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A New Gamma Camera Technique for the Detection of Small Breast Tumors

A diagnostic device that resembles a mammography unit can detect breast tumors as tiny as one-fifth of an inch in diameter, which may make it a valuable complementary// imaging technique to mammography, say researchers at Mayo Clinic, who helped develop the technology along with industry collaborators Gamma Medica and GE Healthcare.

This new technique, Molecular Breast Imaging, uses a new dual-head gamma camera system and is sensitive enough to detect tumors less than 10 millimeters (about two-fifths of an inch) in diameter in 88 percent of cases where it is used. Early findings from an ongoing comparison of the device with mammography show that it can detect small cancers that were not found with mammography, say the investigators. Mayo Clinic physicist Michael O’Connor, Ph.D., will present these results Saturday, Dec. 16, at the 2006 meeting of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

“Our ultimate goal is to detect small cancers that may be inconspicuous or invisible on a mammogram for high-risk women with dense breasts,” says Dr. O’Connor.

The investigators also say their device will likely be only slightly more expensive to use than mammography, and will be much more comfortable for women because much less pressure is needed to image a breast.

“We hope that our studies will eventually show our device to be almost as sensitive as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is probably the best diagnostic test available to date, but is not widely used because of its expense,” says Stephen Phillips, M.D., a Mayo radiologist and a study co-author. An MRI scan costs as much as ten times more than a traditional mammogram and involves injection of a contrast agent.

Mammography uses low-dose X-rays (ionizing radiation) to create images of the anatomy of breast tissue. If the breasts are very dense, it can only accurately help in tumor diagnosis in 30 to 50 percent of cases, says Deborah Rhodes, M.D., another s
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