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Are Ultrasounds As Effective As Mammograms In Detecting Breast Cancer?

Update Date: Dec 31, 2015 09:22 AM EST

Both ultrasounds and mammograms can be equally effective in detecting breast cancer. The findings were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Ultrasonography might help to diagnose cancer in women who have dense breasts, and also, be useful to people in developing countries with greater access to ultrasonography over mammography.

"One is not better than another," said Dr. Lusi Tumyan, City of Hope assistant clinical professor and section chief of breast imaging in the Department of Radiology, via Healthline. "They are complementary. They should be seen as such and used as such rather than one as a substitute for the other. At least, this is the case where both are widely available."

Ultrasound is a device that is used as a "follow-up test" after a potential breast tumor has been identified through a mammogram or a physical exam, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). But the medical organization adds that ultrasound is a valuable tool that is not only available widely but is also non-invasive.

Scientists examined 2,800 subjects in the United States, Canada and Argentina who underwent annual ultrasound and mammogram tests for three years. Although breast cancer was not diagnosed in them initially, they exhibited dense breast tissue, which is thought to be a risk factor for breast cancer.

The study showed that 111 women displayed breast cancer events and 80.2 percent of such events seemed to be invasive with a median tumor size of 12 millimeters. They also found that the same number of mammograms and ultrasounds could identify cancer. However, ultrasounds located cancer that was more likely to be "invasive and node-negative".

Ultrasounds, though, seemed to show a number of "false positives" according to scienceworldreport.

"For U.S. patients, what [this study] really confirms is ultrasound should be used as a supplemental screening exam in dense breast patients," said Tumyan. "At this time, we do not have enough data to support or refute ultrasound as a screening tool for average-risk patients."

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