Biopsies vs Ultrasounds
CHICAGO -- An experimental ultrasound technique that measures how easily breast lumps compress and bounce back could enable doctors to determine instantly whether a woman has cancer or not -- without having to do a biopsy.Those results are undeniably impressive but at the same time only come from a small sample. Biopsying tissue seems still to me and probably to most medical professionals as the best course for a patient who may have cancer. My knowledge of cancer has come from being an almost 13 year malignant melanoma survivor and I've also worked as a x-ray technician. I've long lost count how many moles I have had biopsied. It is MHO that ultrasound technology will not replace a pathologist working with a microscope when it comes to making a cancer diagnosis.
In a small study of 80 women, the technique, called "elastography," distinguished harmless lumps from malignant ones with nearly 100 percent accuracy.
If the results hold up in a larger study, elastography could save thousands of women from the waiting, cost, discomfort and anxiety of a biopsy, in which cells are removed from the breast -- sometimes with a needle, sometimes with a scalpel -- and examined under a microscope.
"There's a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of fear involved" with biopsies, said Susan Brown, manager of health education for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. "And there's the cost of leaving work to make a second appointment. If this can be done instead of a biopsy, there would be a real cost reduction."
Up to 1 million biopsies are performed each year on suspicious breast tissue detected by mammograms and self-exams, but as many as eight out of 10 of these biopsies find that the lumps are benign.
Biopsies can cost $200 to $1,000, depending on whether some fluid or an entire lump is removed, and it can take days or weeks to get the results. The cost of elastography is not yet clear, but some experts said the procedure might run $100 to $200. And it can yield results in minutes.
When checked against biopsies of women's breast tissue, the ultrasound technique correctly identified 17 out of 17 cancerous tumors, and 105 out of 106 harmless lesions. The findings were reported at a national radiology meeting in Chicago this week.
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