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Breast Cancer Health Center

The Latest in Breast Cancer Detection

New breast screening technologies are offering women more individualized care -- and a better chance at survival.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

There is more hope for better diagnosing breast cancer thanks to new technologies.

Advances in screening technologies -- including digital mammograms -- combined with a better understanding of who is at highest risk means doctors are able to find cancers earlier -- and prevent more women from dying.

"The fact that you cannot argue with is that breast cancercancer mortality has declined by 24% in the past 10 years -- and a lot of that is due to early detection," says Carol Lee, MD, chairwoman of the Commission on Breast Imaging for the American College of Radiology and professor of diagnostic radiology at Yale University School of Medicine.

But it's not just screening advances helping to save lives. Experts say what also matters is learning more about the disease itself and who is at greatest risk.

"We are broadening our scope of the factors leading to the development of breast cancer, so we can now determine with far more accuracy not only who is at risk for this disease, but who is best served by various screening techniques, including the newest advances," says Julia A. Smith, MD, director of Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention at the NYU Cancer Institute in New York City.

Risk and Screening: The New Links

Experts say that most women are familiar with at least some of the common risk factors for breast cancer: A first-degree relative who has the disease, for example, or excessive use of alcohol.

But now new research is shedding light on many more individual factors, and in doing so driving both screening and treatment toward a more individualized approach.

"I think one of the biggest advances we are seeing now is this move towards individualized care, particularly when it comes to screening -- we are getting better at determining which options are right for which women, and that's a huge step forward," says Therese B. Bevers, MD, associate professor in the department of clinical cancer prevention and medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center and Prevention Outreach Programs at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

One curriculum pioneering this approach is the Lynne Cohen Breast and Ovarian Cancer Preventive Care Program. Currently available in four major cancer centers across the United States, including Los Angeles, Houston, Birmingham, Ala., and New York City, the goal is to identify more personal risk factors for breast cancer and use that information to create individualized programs of defense and prevention.

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