Dec. 2, 2009 (Chicago) -- Adding ultrasound to annual mammograms improves the detection of early-stage breast cancer in women who are at high risk for the disease, researchers say.
Ultrasound plus mammography, performed annually for three years, spotted about 30% more cancers than mammography alone, says Wendie A. Berg, MD, PhD, of American Radiology Services at Johns Hopkins-Green Spring Station in Lutherville, Md.
"Importantly, most of the cancers that we found with ultrasound were the small invasive cancers that are likely to spread and could ultimately kill a person," she tells WebMD.
Berg says that use of MRI imaging further improved cancer detection in high-risk women.
The study of more than 2,800 women was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
The research builds on a 2008 study, also led by Berg, that showed that a single screen with ultrasound and mammography improves the detection of early breast cancers over a mammogram alone in women at increased risk for breast cancer.
The new study sought to determine if detection could be further improved by performing annual screens with both tools for three years.
"One of the issues that had never been looked at was whether we had to do ultrasound every year or whether you would catch them the first time you looked," Berg says.
The new study showed "that we could increase detection significantly with each annual screening, so it does help to do ultrasound each year in addition to the mammogram," she says.