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The End of the Road for Mammograms?


But even more important for some is the comfort issue. Either way, the hand-held devices in development offer the possibility of being able to avoid having your breasts squished, squeezed, and flattened in the name of cancer prevention.

"You don't feel anything," Huabei Jiang, PhD, another researcher who is working on developing a laser device for breast imaging, tells WebMD. "There is no squeezing or compression of the breast that for some people is painful."

Jiang, an assistant professor of physics at Clemson (S.C.) University, says his group is working on a laser that displays a 3-D image of the breast. In early studies, their hand-held laser was able to distinguish between malignant and nonmalignant tissue and generate images of the breast that are superior to anything seen on mammography or ultrasound. Larger studies are set to begin soon.

Cerussi tells WebMD that lasers will never replace mammograms, but may become important for getting additional information needed for diagnosis or treatment. However, Jiang says some of the lasers in development do have the potential to be used in place of a mammogram, although more testing and tweaking of the technology is needed. He says a laser could be available to doctors within about five years.

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