Monmouth Medical Center is the first hospital in New Jersey to introduce breakthrough technology that combines the known benefit of ultrasound for breast cancer diagnosis with an automated imaging system that is helping physicians find more small and difficult-to-diagnose cancers.
Monmouth’s Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center now offers an automated whole breast ultrasound system that has been approved as a complimentary examination to mammography. Noting that it not a replacement for mammography, radiologist Jorge Pardes, M.D, the director of breast imaging at the Wilentz Center, said a new study has found that physicians are twice as likely to find hidden cancers in women with dense breast tissue if the women are screened with a combination of mammography and automated whole breast ultrasound.
“Mammography is the standard of care for breast screening but, for women with dense breasts, mammography can miss as many as one third of all cancers,” Dr. Pardes says. “Adding a supplemental whole breast exam to the mammogram can find most of those missed cancers.”
He points to peer-reviewed, published clinical trials that have demonstrated that, when used as an adjunct to mammography, automated whole breast ultrasound found more and smaller cancers than were found by mammography alone.
“Mammographically missed cancer is a particular problem for women with dense breasts,” he says. “Mammograms of dense breasts are more difficult to interpret because it can be challenging to see through the dense tissue, which shows up white on mammograms. Cancerous lumps also appear white so they become invisible and difficult to differentiate.”
Automated whole breast ultrasound is performed by a certified technologist using a robotic device to record images of the entire breast instead of just single pictures. Upon review by the dedicated imager, the images can be stopped, magnified and reviewed to reduce the risk of missing anything, and the test is reproducible year to year.
“Up until now, we’ve used breast ultrasound as a diagnostic tool, but this system allows us to use ultrasound as well as mammography for early detection,” Dr. Pardes says.
Visual or self-exams do not indicate whether a woman has dense breast tissue, which is revealed by a mammogram. Referrals for automated whole breast ultrasound must be made through a patient’s physician once the mammogram is ultrasound must be made through a patient’s physician once the mammogram is taken and a physician deems the additional test appropriate. Yearly checkups are important to detect changes in breast tissue.
Automated whole breast ultrasound — which takes about 15 minutes and does not include breast compression like a mammogram — is not currently covered by insurance.
“In the future, we expect that insurance companies will recognize the benefit of this technology and cover this expense,” says Dr. Pardes, who notes that a self-pay rate of $300 that includes both professional and technical components is available for patients who choose to have the exam.
For the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center, this new technology is the second recent milestone for women who were previously difficult to diagnose. In 2010, Monmouth became the first in New Jersey to offer breast specific gamma imaging (BSGI) — a molecular breast imaging technique that goes beyond mammography, MRI and ultrasound to help diagnose breast cancer by showing the metabolic activity of breast lesions.
For more information or to schedule an appointment at the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center at Monmouth Medical Center, call 732-923-7700 or visit www.monmouthwilentzbreastcetner.com.
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