A new technique that uses a specially designed gamma camera was found to T improve the detection of small breast tumors, according to a study.

Technique Allows Earlier Detection

A team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, used the technique, called molecular breast imaging, on 40 women who had suspicious mammogram findings.

The imaging detected 33 of the 36 malignant lesions confirmed in 26 of the women during surgery.

Overall, molecular breast imaging had an 86% detection rate of small breast tumors.

"By optimizing the camera to detect smaller breast lesions, this technique should aid in the detection of early-stage breast cancer, something that was not possible with conventional gamma cameras," says Dr. Michael O'Connor, a Mayo Clinic radiologist.

Better Than Mammography

Mammography uses differences in the anatomic appearance of tumors and normal tissue to detect breast cancer. These differences can be subtle and can often be obscured by dense breast tissue.

In contrast, molecular breast imaging detects cancer by identifying differences in the metabolic behavior of tumors and normal tissue.

"Approximately 25% to 40% of women have dense breast tissue, which decreases the chance that a cancer will be visible on their mammograms," says Dr. Douglas Collins, another Mayo radiologist.

"With molecular breast imaging, the visibility of the tumor is not influenced by the density of the surrounding tissue, so this technique is well-suited to find cancers in women whose mammograms may not be very accurate, Collins explains.

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