Elastography is a type of ultrasound screening in which an ultrasound image is first taken and then a small amount of controlled pressure is applied to the breast tissue and a second image is captured. Computer software compares these images in order to measure and map the mechanical properties (compressibility, elasticity, etc) of the breast lesion.
At the 2009 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, breast cancer researchers demonstrated the potential usefulness of elastography for detecting breast cancer tumors.
In one study elastography properly identified 98% of the breast cancers and properly identified 76% of the non-malignant lesions. A press release with ultrasound & elastogram images are available to view.
In a second study investigators used ultrasound and elastography to examine 125 patients with a total of 134 breast lesions. Of the 134 lesions, 81 were benign and 44 were malignant. In this study, elastography was reported to have an overall accuracy of 94%.
A third study examined 342 breast lesions of which 25% were malignant and 75% were benign based on needle biopsies. Elastography results reported that 30% were malignant and 70% were benign. The study investigators indicated that elastography was more specific, but less sensitive than ultrasound.
Overall, these breast cancer research findings are very positive for the usefulness of elastography as a breast cancer screening tool. By itself, ultrasound is generally considered to be relatively poor at differentiating between malignant and benign breast tumors. Increasing the ability of ultrasound to make this distinction by using elastography has the potential to lead to fewer unnecessary biopsies while providing the ability to more accurately image breast tumors. Since most breast masses are benign, reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies can have a major impact on the quality of life of many women. Improving breast tumor images allows for the possibility of more precise breast cancer treatments, which might help reduce undesireable side effects. Therefore, these new results provide additional optimism for improved breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in the future.
To learn what you can do to help reduce your risk of getting breast cancer, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at www.fightBCnow.com.