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Ultrasound testing found valuable if breasts dense

[January 27 2012] - A study by a local physician has shown the value of ultrasound screening in women with dense breasts.

The study, by Hospital of Central Connecticut radiologist Jean Weigert, M.D., was prompted by a state law that requires breast density information be included in mammography reports.

In November, Weigert presented her study's data at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting. Study findings are in the article "The Connecticut Experiment: The Role of Ultrasound in The Screening of Women with Dense Breasts," which has been accepted for publication in The Breast Journal. Weigert is article co-author.

A second article related to a multicenter breast-specific gamma imaging (BSGI) study, also led by Weigert, is published in the January issue of American Journal of Radiology. Weigert is primary author of this article.

The ultrasound study, based on data from six radiology practices over 12 sites within Connecticut, looked at ultrasound's value as an added study following normal mammogram results for women with breast density greater than 50 percent. It analyzed data from more than 8,500 ultrasound screenings within the year following law enactment, effective Oct. 1, 2009. With ultrasound, 3.25 cancers were discovered per 1,000 screenings; diagnosis followed recommended biopsies after ultrasound. On average, says Weigert, four to six cancers are found for every 1,000 mammogram screenings. This study finding, she notes, indicates a potentially increased ability to diagnose cancers that might not have been seen on screening mammograms alone.

The second article, "Results of a Multicenter Patient Registry to Determine the Clinical Impact of Breast-Specific Gamma Imaging, a Molecular Breast Imaging Technique," discusses BSGI's value as an additional test for patients with inconclusive mammogram or ultrasound results. This was based on a multicenter patient study of more than 1,000 patients from four sites in Philadelphia, North Carolina, Nevada and Connecticut that evaluated BSGI study data collected from 2005-2007. Weigert says BSGI, while not a screening tool, was found to be useful toward determining further diagnostic testing.

"I think it just underscores how successful this technology is in working up these complicated patients," Weigert says, adding that if a BSGI test is positive, a biopsy is the next step and if it's negative, initial images might be reviewed further.

BSGI can distinguish non-cancerous or benign tissue from cancer and locate lesions as small as two to three millimeters. BSGI is a non-invasive test similar to a mammogram but that uses less compression; the Dilon 6800 Gamma Camera was used for the study. Before imaging, patients receive an intravenous radiotracer dye. The dye reveals as a bright spot during the test if cancer is present since the dye is more easily absorbed by cancer cells, which have a higher metabolic activity.

This BSGI study followed an unprecedented, award-winning study Weigert led that showed measurable value of a gamma imaging test over ultrasound in detecting breast cancer as a follow-up to a mammogram.

Jean Weigert, M.D.