By Dr. Lisa Sheppard, MD
The value of early breast cancer detection by mammographyhas been demonstrated by a number of randomized screening studies in different countries from 1960 to the 1990s. All these studies were performed with mammography alone or in combination with palpation. In the last 10 years, Ultrasound has been employed as an adjunct to Mammography whenever suspicious lesions were detected, in order to better characterize lesions and to decide whether an ultrasound-guided interventional biopsy can be performed to make the diagnosis.
New studies show women screened with 3D Mammo-Tomosynthesis detected an additional four breast cancers per 1,000 women screened and Ultrasound detected significantly more; an additional seven breast cancers per 1,000 women screened.
In dense breasts, Mammography has a limited sensitivity and ultrasound is useful to examine dense breast tissue. Dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more fibrous tissue compared to breasts that aren’t dense. Doctors can tell if breasts are dense by the way they look on a mammogram.
Research has shown that dense breasts:
- can be 6 times more likely to develop cancer
- can be harder for mammograms to detect cancer in.
In over 3,000 women with dense breasts, it was found that adding Tomosynthesis or Ultrasound detected an additional 24 cancers (23 invasive). The additional screening tests found a total of 24 breast cancers missed by 2D Mammography alone.
Interestingly, 2 years ago, a screening project started in Austria in which Ultrasound was always added in cases of dense breasts. Preliminary data shows that the detection of additional cancers is increased with the added Ultrasounds. For women with dense breasts, a breast cancer screening plan that includes both an annual mammogram and an annual ultrasound is better at finding breast cancer than having only an annual mammogram. Compared to MRI, ultrasound is less expensive.
What You Can Do
Based on scientific studies, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor or your radiologist if you have dense breasts, as well as about your risk of breast cancer. If your breasts are dense or your risk of breast cancer is higher than average, an aggressive screening plan that includes breast ultrasounds and along with mammograms and 3D mammograms may make sense for you.
Ask your doctor to explain the risks and benefits of having ultrasound in your screening plan. Together you can develop a screening plan that’s right for you.
We have 2 convenient locations in NJ to get your annual mammogram AND ultrasound:
Paterson: 680 Broadway suite 111, 07514 Phone number: 973-977-6662
Flemington: 3 Walter E Foran Blvd, Suite 312, 08822, Phone number: 908-284-2300