Breast Cancer Screening Options

9 years 2 weeks 1 day ago November 19, 2007 Nov 19, 2007 Monday, November 19 2007 Monday, November 19, 2007 7:29:58 AM CST in News

It uses low dose x-rays to pinpoint unusual growths.

When combined with physical examination, mammography could be up to 90 percent effective at detecting cancers. And for most women a yearly mammogram has been proven to detect the majority of breast cancers.

But women at higher risk for breast cancer, those with a family history or those who have already had cancer in one breast, could benefit from another level of screening.

"MRI has been shown to be very sensitive for detecting breast cancers. It also detects a lot of other benign things," Radiologist Dr. Michele Drotman said.

MRI uses magnetic fields to create images of tissue. It shows changes in blood flow.

"See this area of color shows the vascularity and it is increased in this lateral portion of the left breast. And the characteristics are very suspicious for cancer there," Drotman said.

But because MRI tends to produce more false positives than mammography, doctors do not recommend it for all women. Women who find a lump during self examination or during a routine doctor's visit have a mammogram in conjunction with an ultrasound. Doctors evaluate very young women using ultrasound because it doesn't involve radiation. It uses soundwaves.

"Ultrasound is very good at differentiating between benign cysts and solid lesions to determine any abnormality we may see in a mammogram," Drotman said.

Doctors can also use ultrasound to take a biopsy of a lesion or mass found during a routine mammogram.

"But ultrasound is not a replacement for mammography because it can't pick up micro calcifications which can be a very early sign of cancer which mammography does," Drotman said.

Ultrasounds can be expensive, so you should always consult your doctor to see if it's necessary to get additional testing on your own.

Doctors can now tell if you are smoking

If you want your loved one to quit smoking their age might determine the right approach to take. A study presented at the American College of Chest Physicians shows age is an important factor in why people quit smoking. The study found that smokers over the age of 65 generally quit because of the health risks, while those under 65 quit because of cost.

And if you are smoking, it's now harder to hide it from your doctor. Researchers developed a test that doctors can use to determine if you are smoking by the amount of carbon monoxide in your bloodstream. The doctors use a clip like the one shown to test your blood. These tests are also used for victims who are exposed to smoke in fires to see what damage was done to the body.

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