Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

New Technology Color Codes Breast Cancer.

Experiment Tool Could Make Biopsy Thing of the Past
WebMD Health News

Sept. 26, 2002 -- Researchers in Australia are using experimental imaging technology to color code aggressive breast cancers in hopes of eliminating biopsies and reducing the number of unnecessary breast cancer surgeries.

The new technique called MRS-SCS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy plus statistical classification strategy) actually analyzes thousands of chemical components of cancer cells. Each chemical has a different, identifiable place on the spectrum, a sort of color-coded chemical signature.

"Cancer cells progress from early to late state, non-aggressive to aggressive," says Cynthia Lean, PhD, scientific director of the Institute for Magnetic Resonance Research. "At each stage the chemical color-coded signature is different, so the MRS-SCS analysis can spot an aggressive cancer cell as well as a benign cell," she says.

She presented the latest findings on MRS-SCS - which is not yet ready for wide use - at the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research meeting in Orlando.

While at this point MRS-SCS is being used to analyze breast cancer cells that have been removed by needle biopsy, "we hope to someday be able to conduct MRS analysis while the cell is still in the woman's breast," she says.

As she envisions it, a woman would be rolled into the MR machine and then MRS-SCS would analyze the cells in her breast. Cancer cells would be identified and "we would even have a prognosis." And all of this would be done without ever piercing the skin.

If that sounds like Star Trek medicine, it sounds that way to Kenneth A. Bertram, MD, PhD, too. But he says that he is ready for it. Bertram - also a Colonel in the US Army Medical Corps - is the director of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs and is a medical oncologist.

"The physics guys tell us this is possible and all of us are interested in better, less invasive tests," Bertram tells WebMD. But for now, he says that he would be happy if MRS-SCS could simply reduce the rate of unnecessary open biopsies, which are surgical biopsies that are used when needle biopsy is inconclusive.

"Currently after a suspicious lump is located by physical examination or mammography, the next step is needle biopsy," says Lean. "But about 40% of these procedures are inconclusive. The next step is an open biopsy in which tissue is surgically removed." Avoiding that surgical step is the first goal for MRS-SCS.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow