Make your home page

Health Spotlight: Detecting hard-to-see cancers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In the past 30 years, the death rate from breast cancer has decreased by 43%.

Mammography has long been the standard screening tool followed by digital mammography, and 3D mammography. But mammograms may not always be the most effective tool for women with dense breast tissue.

Now, an affordable abbreviated breast MRI may be the answer to catching cancer in these women earlier than ever before.

“I was taking my shower after I felt the lump. I was diagnosed with stage one, B invasive ductal carcinoma,” said Tessa Gausy, a breast cancer patient.

Tessa Gauzy’s story is an all too common one.

“I have no family history,” she said.

But less than 10% of breast cancers are hereditary. That’s why a yearly mammogram is vital to catch cancers before it’s too late.

Dr. Brett Parkinson from Intermountain Health said, “Our goal is to detect cancers when they are small, at their earliest, most treatable stage.”

But the denser a woman’s breast, the harder it is to detect tumors early.

“Mammography picks up about four cancers per 1,000 women. MRI, on the other hand, can pick up anywhere from 12 to 16 early breast cancers,” Parkinson said.

But a full breast MRI is expensive and time-consuming, currently used for only the most at-risk patients.

“This is why abbreviated MRI will revolutionize what we do,” Parkinson said.

Abbreviated breast MRI uses the same MRI machines-the difference- the time inside the MRI is just 10 minutes. It costs less, there are fewer sequencers so less time is spent reading the report, it’s just as sensitive as full breast MRIs and it can pick up hard-to-see tumors that mammograms miss.

In dense tissue, mammography sensitivity goes down to less than 50%. Abbreviated MRI allows doctors to see the extent of the cancer and its margins.

“I think that we’re seeing the future unfold right before our eyes,” Parkinson said.

The average risk of a woman in the US to develop breast cancer is one in eight. Dr. Parkinsons says Mammography is still the best and most efficient way to find early-stage tumors and women should get one every single year.

Women whose breast cancer is caught at an early stage have a 93% or higher survival rate in the first five years.