CHICAGO--Citing findings from radiological studies performed on
more than 10,000 women, Paula Gordon, MD, suggests periodic ultrasound
examination of the breast in addition to mammography for women
at high risk of breast cancer and who have mammographically dense
She also believes that ultrasonographers should scan the entire
breast in women whose mammograms exhibit a lump or some other
suspicious finding rather than follow the common practice of scanning
only the lump and the surrounding tissue.
Ultrasonography of the full breast takes only a few minutes longer
than a spot scan, and it does not appreciably add to the cost
of the exam. However, it can uncover unsuspected cancer, said
Dr. Gordon, clinical associate professor of radiology, University
of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Ultrasound should not take the place of mammography as a breast
cancer screening tool, Dr. Gordon said at the annual meeting of
the Radiological Society of North America. "Ultrasound does
not show microcalcifications, for example, which are early signs
of cancer that show up very well on mammography," she explained.
However, ultrasound could be an adjunct to mammography for certain
groups of women, she advised. One group consists of women who
have no symptoms of breast cancer but who have a strong family
history of the disease or a prior personal history of breast cancer
and who have radiographically dense breasts.
Another group includes women with breast cancer who are being
considered for conservative surgery. "Ultrasound can help
determine if other areas of undiagnosed cancer may exist in the
breast, thereby helping to determine how extensive surgical removal
should be," she said.
Dr. Gordon reached these conclusions after completing a study
of breast ultrasound examinations performed on 10,362 women. Ultrasound
identified a total of 3,533 solid tumors, 37% of which had not
been seen previously on mammography studies or palpated during