April 3, 2000 (Chantilly, Va.) -- Medical experts say there are several
reasons why a mammogram may fail to detect a cancerous tumor:
The technology. Mammograms involve squeezing a woman's breast between two
plates of glass -- a technique that is awkward at best. Old or badly maintained
equipment and poorly trained technicians can increase the odds of an inaccurate
The quality of a woman's breast. Mammograms aren't good at detecting
cancers in breast tissue that is dense or fibrous, as is common among female
athletes and premenopausal women.
The pace of medicine. With radiologists under pressure to read more films
more quickly, the risk of making mistakes has grown.
Studies on mammogram accuracy show that screenings miss anywhere from 5% to
17% of abnormalities. Yet many patients continue to believe that a
"clear" mammogram is the same as a clean bill of health.
Stage I, II, IIIA, and operable IIIC breast cancer often requires a multimodality approach to treatment. Irrespective of the eventual procedure selected, the diagnostic biopsy and surgical procedure that will be used as primary treatment should be performed as two separate procedures. In many cases, the diagnosis of breast carcinoma is made by core needle biopsy. After the presence of a malignancy is confirmed, treatment options should be discussed...
"Even though there is no perfect test, and no perfect doctor, and no
perfect reading, patients expect perfect results,'' says Phan Huynh, M.D., a
breast imaging specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in
Michael D. Towle writes regularly for WebMD on health and