How are breast ultrasounds better at detecting cancer?
Mammograms are the best way to detect changes in breast tissues, but they are not always accurate for women with dense breast tissue. Britney Glaser explains how breast ultrasounds are used to get a closer look at all areas of the breast.
Jeanne Chaffin knows breast cancer runs in her family so she keeps a close check on her breast health, "I do breast self exams once a month. If I feel something, I will usually contact my doctor and let him know that I have a new lump that has cropped up."
It's been 30 years since Jeanne felt lump and there have been several through the years, "You can kind of slide your fingers across and tell that something's there, they're hard."
Once she feels a lump, Jeanne calls her doctor and from there, a mammogram is ordered, "I've had a few mammograms that were abnormal and had to have an ultrasound afterwards."
Jeanne, like many women, has dense breast tissue. Sonographer Ashley Broussard says mammogram X-rays have a tough time seeing through dense breast tissue, "See how it's bright? A fattier breast tissue would be a little more gray, a little darker, it wouldn't have as many striations in it as this does."
Tumor can blend in more easily to dense breast tissue, but that does not mean mammograms aren't effective. When used along, with breast ultrasounds, the entire breast, even the hard to see chest wall can be studied.
Ashley Broussard, Sonographer, "We're looking for anything that is unusual, characteristically of breast tissue: cysts, masses, lymph nodes."
Broussard says cancerous masses have a specific look, "See how this is really smooth? Cancers tend to be more what we call speculated."
If a suspicious mass is found, a biopsy will be ordered to determine whether or not it's cancerous.
For Jeanne, biopsies brought good news, no cancer, but she's not going to relax in her breast health routine, "It scares me, basically, to let things go, ignoring it is not the answer. You need to deal with it."
Breast ultrasounds are also recommend for women with silicone breast implants, those that are pregnant or should not be exposed to mammogram X-rays and women with a higher risk for breast cancer.