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Ultrasound Could be Next Best Alternative to Mammography for Breast Cancer Detection

Update Date: Nov 28, 2012 03:23 AM EST

A new study by researchers from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that in countries where accessibility to mammograms is difficult, ultrasound screening can be the next best option, in terms of affordability and convenience, in detecting early breast cancers.

The researchers conducted a multinational study that looked at ultrasound as an adjunct to screening mammography, Medical Xpress reported.

For the study, the researchers reviewed data from ACRIN 6666 study, which revealed that apart from annual mammograms, ultrasound tests or MRIs can be beneficial for women in detecting breast cancer.

The current research concentrated on the usage of ultrasound scans as the primary screening method for cancer detection.

"We found that breast cancer detection with ultrasound alone compares quite favorably to mammography alone, and was actually better at detecting early invasive breast cancers," lead author of the study, Wendie Berg, M.D., Ph.D., professor of radiology at Pitt, and practicing radiologist at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, said.

"Ultrasound screening could be a viable option, particularly in countries where ultrasound is readily available but access to mammography is limited."

In the ACRIN 6666 study, there were 2,662 participants enrolled at 21 sites in the U.S., Canada and Argentina. They had completed three rounds of yearly mammography screening, followed by whole breast ultrasound screening, with a 12-month clinical follow-up in the fourth year, the report said.

The findings of the study revealed that 53 cases of breast cancer could be detected with ultrasound screening, just like mammography.  Significantly, a majority of cases of invasive breast cancers were detected by ultrasound.

However, one drawback was that ultrasound tests resulted in more false positive alarms than mammography.

"We designed our study so that women had independent mammograms and screening ultrasound exams," Dr. Berg said. "The primary goal was to examine ultrasound done in addition to mammography but we now have analyzed the data as if ultrasound were the only test performed."

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

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