Dr. Rachel Brem has been dedicated to the early detection of breast cancer since she was a young girl, when her mother was diagnosed with the disease. But it wasn’t until the moment when she was testing ultrasound equipment for her clinical center on herself, just two weeks after her most recent and regular mammogram, that she discovered her own cancer.
Today, Dr. Brem is among a cohort of doctors pioneering clinical practices and research that aim to provide breast screening based on each woman’s individual risk factors, the breast health care of the future.
Yesterday, at the GE Healthcare booth of the centennial RSNA annual meeting, she was joined by a panel of such experts to discuss why we need to look at individualized breast cancer screening options to help improve detection.
Watch the Hangout in full below.
“I think back thirty years ago when mammography was first being offered to women to screen for breast cancer, I think it was really maybe oversold,” said Dr Schilling. “We heard about early detection and we thought mammography was going to bring early detection for every woman. But we as radiologists know that that’s just not the truth.”
“We know that we have patients with high breast density, we’re not going to be able to identify a lot of these cancers. These patients then go on to present after a normal mammogram with […] cancer. And these cancers tend to be larger, more aggressive, and more difficult to treat. So I think mammography was oversold and we need to complement [it] with other tools.”
However, the shortcomings of last generation’s mammography technology were crucial in paving the way for new developments and improvements. “It’s important to remember that mammography, although imperfect, has resulted in a thirty percent decrease in breast cancer,” added Dr Brem. “So it’s very important to get your mammogram, but because it’s not perfect and because we have challenges in improving the detection of early curable breast cancer, we’ve been looking to other technologies.” Citing ultrasonography as an example, she said, “Ultrasound has been a terrific modality that is optimized in women with dense breasts. Cancers are dark, breast tissue is white, and so we can find these mammographically invisible breast cancers.”
Dr Jacob pointed out that with the new wealth of data offered by this generation’s breast diagnostic technology, traditional mammography can be supplemented to great effect. “What’s really fascinating is the ability to supplement mammography, and have that supplement offer so much,” she said. “We’re trying to find more cancers, and find more cancers earlier. With ABUS, we increase the sensitivity of the breast cancer screening process by up to about 35.7 percent, and that’s a really large number, and a number that I’m very proud of.”
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