January 1, 2006 A new kind of MRI machine helps doctors diagnose breast cancer earlier. Patients lie on their stomach and their breasts are placed in two coils, which focus radio waves and allow for more complete images that give a three-dimensional look inside the breast.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.--Two-hundred thousand women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the United States. Mammograms, however, may not be the best way to detect it. Now, there's a new test to help doctors pinpoint and treat breast cancer.
Suzette Lipscomb knows how to get the most out of every moment and she plans to share most of those moments with her little girl, Ava. "I always wanted a little girl, but I was a little afraid that I may pass on some type of tendency toward the disease," Suzette says.
The disease she feared? Breast cancer. Her grandmother beat it and so did she. It wasn't easy though, during her battle she was forced to make a difficult decision. Suzette says, "I was trying to make a decision as to whether or not to remove both my breasts."
Richard Reitherman, a breast radiologist at CAD Imaging Sciences in White Plains, N.Y., used the new cadsciences breast imaging system to help decide which treatment would work best. For the test, patients lie on their stomach with their breasts in two coils, which help focus radio waves for more complete images.
"She and her surgeon know exactly how big the tumor is, so it gives her the best treatment," Dr. Reitherman says. For Suzette it showed her second breast was clear.
A dye injected into the patient helps pinpoint cancer and if chemotherapy treatments are working. In the scan, the red areas are cancer -- cancer that was missed in a mammogram. In fact, 20 percent of women who don't have the cad-sciences MRI will need a second surgery, something Suzette was able to avoid.
"I feel like the luckiest woman alive that not only did I have my cancer caught early enough that I'm alive, but that I was able to have a child," Suzette says.
Not all women are candidates for this cadsciences MRI. It's used for women who have already been diagnosed and need to know a course of action. It's also used for women who are high risk and have a family history of the disease. The procedure takes about 30 minutes; results are available 15 minutes later.
BACKGROUND: Women have a new imaging tool set to help diagnose breast cancer. The 3TP method generates a unique color-coded map by measuring changes (color and intensity) in contrast agent concentration in normal and cancerous tissues over time. It provides information that is not readily available from traditional mammography or MRI. In addition, the 3TP system is ergonomically designed to be comfortable for the patient, regardless of breast size.
HOW MRI WORKS: Magnetic resonance imaging uses radiofrequency waves and a strong magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. These radio waves are directed at protons in hydrogen atoms -- one of the most abundant atoms in the human body, because of the body's high water content. The waves "excite" the protons, and when they "relax," they emit strong radio signals. A computer can turn those signals into a high-contrast image showing differences in the water content and distribution in various bodily tissues. It is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional X-ray mammography for the early diagnosis of breast cancer because women aren't exposed to the same radiation they experience with X-rays.
ABOUT BREAST CANCER: Breast cancer is a type of cancer in which cells in the breast become abnormal and grow and divide uncontrollably, eventually forming a mass called a tumor. Some tumors are benign, meaning that they do not invade other types of tissue, although if they become big enough, they can interfere with some bodily functions, such as the flow of blood or urine. Malignant tumors have cells that can invade nearby tissues. When a cancer "metastasizes," cells from the original tumor break off and travel to other parts of the body via the blood or lymph systems. More than 75 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts within the breast. The next most common site is in the glandular tissue that makes the milk.
DO-IT-YOURSELF BREAST EXAM: Although it is not a substitute for regular tests by your doctor, women can perform a basic breast self-exam at home. In fact, more than 90 percent of all breast lumps are found by the women themselves. Breast tissue is shaped like a comma with the tail curving up toward the armpit, and normally has a lumpy feel. Because hormones can affect the breast tissue, the best time to examine your breasts is a few days after your period ends, when hormone levels are stable.