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The FDA has approved a new one-minute ultrasound scan for use in conjunction with screening mammograms in healthy women with dense breasts. Mammograms can yield inconsistent results regarding signs of cancer in dense breasts since both the tumors and the dense tissue show up as white areas on the film.
According to data submitted to the FDA, a study including 200 women demonstrated that combining the two tests increased breast cancer detection by about 30 percent. But the new approach isn’t perfect: the combination of the two detection methods led to a four percent false-positive rate – that is, the tests erroneously indicated cancer when none was present. The FDA said that the dual testing method isn’t advisable or appropriate for women who have had prior breast biopsies or surgery because these interventions can alter the appearance of breast tissue.
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 40 percent of all women have dense breasts – the density comes from a higher ratio of connective and glandular tissue to adipose tissue, and can make mammograms harder to interpret than the x-rays of less dense breasts (which typically contain more fatty tissue).