Most of us have heard that mammography is the most widely used method for detecting breast cancer. But, the recent studies has shown that use of ultrasound for detection of this deadly disease is comparable to its sensitivity to that of mammography and should also be considered when testing for the disease.
It was recently identified that where mammography is available, ultrasound should be used as a supplemental test in the case of women with dense breasts and who do not fall under the high-risk criteria for screening MRI. It can also be used for those with dense breasts and are not in a position to tolerate MRI.
How is breast ultrasound conducted?
This type of screening is otherwise called as sonography and it makes use of sound waves for outlining a part of the body. To conduct this test, a small microphone-like instrument known as transducer is placed on the skin. This transducer is first lubricated with ultrasound gel and it emits sound waves and selects the echoes as they are produced by body tissues. The echoes are converted by a computer system into a black and white image that is displayed on a computer screen. Women should remember that this is a painless test and does not expose them to any sort of radiation risk.
Ultrasound is stated to be the valuable tool that can be used along with mammography as it is less expensive as compared to other screening methods like MRI. Generally, the breast ultrasound is used for targeting specific area of concern found in mammogram. This method will help in distinguishing between cysts and solid masses and sometimes this method will also help in differentiating between benign and cancerous tumors.
Even though, the use of ultrasound as against mammogram is not recommended, clinical trials are now looking at the benefits and risks associated with adding breast ultrasound for screening in the case of women with higher risk of breast cancer and those with dense breasts.
Ultrasound Vs. Mammography:
With the increasing breast cancer awareness among women, most of them now have a question whether an ultrasound is enough or whether mammography alone can show the right results. A study was conducted to identify the difference between the two and for understanding the benefits of one method over another. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and included and encompassed 2809 participants in the United States, Argentina and Canada. Of these participants, 2662 underwent three annual screenings, wherein both ultrasound and mammography was used. Each of these patients had a 12-month follow-up or biopsy.
The result was that ultrasound was as good as mammography in detecting breast cancer and this method was also able to identify greater number of invasive and node-negative cancers as compared to the other one. But, on the other hand, there were also more of false positives with ultrasound as compared to mammograms.
More than these things, ultrasound is affordable as compared to mammography and it is also more portable. The conclusion of the study was that in the countries where breast cancer screening is lacking due to lack of breast cancer awareness, ultrasound can be used as an effective alternative to identify breast lumps.