New Diagnostic Techniques for Breast Cancer Detection

Vineeta Singh; Christobel Saunders; Liz Wylie; Anita Bourke

Disclosures

Future Oncol. 2008;4(4):501-503. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Breast imaging has made huge advances in the last decade, and along with newer techniques to diagnose primary breast cancer, many novel methods are being used and look promising in detecting distant metastasis, recurrent disease and assessing response to treatment. Full-field digital mammography optimizes the lesion-background contrast and gives better sensitivity, and it is possible to see through the dense tissues by altering computer windows; this may be particularly useful in younger women with dense breasts. The need for repeat imaging is reduced, with the added advantage of reduced radiation dose to patients. Computer-aided detection systems may help the radiologist in interpretation of both conventional and digital mammograms. MRI has a role in screening women at high risk for breast cancer. It also aids in cancer management by assessing response to treatment and can help in deciding appropriate surgery by providing accurate information on the extent of the tumor. Newer diagnostic techniques such as sestamibi scans, optical imaging and molecular diagnostic techniques look promising, but need more investigation into their use. Their roles will appear clearer in coming years, and they may prove to be of help in further investigating lesions that are indeterminate on standard imaging. Other upcoming techniques are contrast-enhanced mammography and tomosynthesis. These may give additional information in indeterminate lesions, and when used in screening they aid in reducing recall rates, as shown in recent studies. PET/computed tomography has a role in detecting local disease recurrence and distant metastasis in breast cancer patients.

Early detection is one of the most important strategies to improve breast cancer survival. Newer diagnostic techniques in imaging, tissue diagnosis and cytobiological assessments are being developed, which promise to improve early detection and identify women at potentially high risk of the disease. Mammography has been the gold standard for screening for breast cancer, but it has limitations, particularly in younger women and those with dense breasts. Newer and more specific screening and diagnostic tests are required for early detection of breast cancer, especially in high-risk groups. This article reviews existing methods of breast cancer detection, including mammography, with emphasis on evolving techniques and indications of its use within these conventional diagnostic areas. We then highlight some newer diagnostic technology, which, although yet unproven, shows promise in improving diagnosis and early detection of breast cancer for the near future.

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