Rethinking Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer detection with ultrasound may be comparable to mammography

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Doctors may now have a new — and equally effective — breast cancer screening tool in their arsenal.

A new study found that ultrasound was comparable in its sensitivity to mammography, the current gold standard in breast cancer detection, and should be considered when screening women for the disease.

"Where mammography is available, [ultrasound] should be seen as a supplemental test for women with dense breasts who do not meet high-risk criteria for screening [mammography] and for high-risk women with dense breasts who are unable to tolerate [mammography]," wrote lead study author Wendie A. Berg, MD, PhD, a radiologist at Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and colleagues.

For this study, Dr. Berg and team looked at 2,809 women from the US, Canada and Argentina who participated in an American College of Radiology study.

Of these women, 2,662 completed three yearly breast screenings with both ultrasound and mammography. They then had a biopsy or a 12-month follow-up.

Dr. Berg and team found that the number of ultrasound screenings that detected breast cancer was comparable to that of mammography. There was also a greater number of invasive and node-negative cancers found by ultrasound. However, a greater number of false-positives occurred among the women screened with ultrasound.

In spite of this, these researchers said ultrasound should be considered when screening for breast cancer.

The number of breast cancer cases has increased worldwide in recent years, with more than 1.6 million new cases of the disease reported in 2010. More than 2 million new breast cancer cases are expected by 2030.

This study was published Dec. 28 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The Avon Foundation for Women and the National Cancer Institute funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

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Review Date: 
December 29, 2015
Last Updated:
December 29, 2015