New breast-imaging technology could save more women's lives

July 22, 2004

NEW YORK CITY - Using alternative imaging technologies to supplement mammography could help some 40,000 women dying of breast cancer each year, according to a researcher involved in an unprecedented number of studies investigating new screening techniques.

"Independent experts have confirmed that mammography is the best screening tool we have in the near-term, and one that will be difficult to replace," said Etta D. Pisano, M.D., professor of radiology and biomedical engineering and chief of breast imaging at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. "But to save more lives, we need research to determine which technologies will be effective supplements to mammography, especially for high-risk women."

Dr. Pisano spoke today at a Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) media briefing on women's breast health.

Four clinical trials currently underway will determine whether digital mammography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging can contribute to the early detection of breast cancer--and prevent deaths from the disease.

Since ultrasound and MR imaging do not rely on radiation for imaging purposes, these two techniques could lead to a lowering of the screening age of women from 40 to years or increase the number of regular screenings for women at high risk for breast cancer, Dr. Pisano said.

"We're in the midst of a boom in testing additional modalities for the detection of breast cancer," Dr. Pisano said. "We are looking for increased sensitivity and increased specificity."

The multi-center trials, sponsored by the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), a cooperative clinical trials group funded by the National Cancer Institute, are:

More information on these trials, including enrollment sites, is available at Dr. Pisano is also co-author of the Institute of Medicine report "Saving Lives: Strategy for Improving Breast Cancer Detection and Diagnosis" published in June.
RSNA is an association of more than 35,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists and related scientists committed to promoting excellence in radiology through education and by fostering research, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (

Radiological Society of North America

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