Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Test May Reduce Unnecessary Breast Biopsies

Elastography Measures Stiffness of Breast Lesions
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

elastography_detects_breast_cancer.jpg

Dec. 2, 2009 (Chicago) -- A new test that looks at the stiffness of tissue may help distinguish between cancerous and benign breast lesions, potentially cutting down on unnecessary biopsies, researchers say.

Used in conjunction with breast ultrasound, the new imaging test, known as elastography, correctly identified 98% of cancerous lesions and 78% of those that weren’t cancerous in a study of about 200 women.

"With more research, elastography could impact decisions to not perform biopsies in patients who don’t need them," reducing anxiety and costs, says Stamatia V. Destounis, MD, of the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care in Rochester, N.Y.

About 80% of breast lesions that are biopsied turn out to be benign, according to the American Cancer Society.

Destounis presented the findings here at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Cancerous Breast Lesions Stiffer than Benign Ones

When a mammography produces suspicious findings, ultrasound is often performed to further investigate the results.

However, it often results in more biopsies because of its inability to accurately distinguish between cancerous and benign lesions, Destounis tells WebMD.

Adding elastography -- which uses pressure from breathing, heartbeat, or pushing on the skin to measure the stiffness of a lesion -- may help improve correct diagnosis, she says.

Cancerous tumors tend to be stiffer than surrounding tissues or cysts, whereas benign lesions are more compressible, Destounis says.

All that's needed is special software and pushing a button on the ultrasound unit, she says.

Elastography Identifies 98% of Cancerous Breast Lesions

The new study involved 193 patients who underwent a total of 198 elastograms and ultrasounds. The doctors biopsied all the solid lesions that were detected.

Elastography correctly identified 98% of the 59 lesions that proved to be cancerous on biopsy.

Of the 69 lesions that turned out to be benign, elastography correctly identified 78% of them.

"We hope to improve on that number as the software continues to improve," Destounis says, adding that elastography has been around for a while but is experiencing a "resurgence."

 

Elastography Also Being Used to Help Diagnose Skin Cancer

The new study involved 193 patients who underwent a total of 198 elastograms and ultrasounds. The doctors biopsied all the solid lesions that were detected.

Elastography correctly identified 98% of the 59 lesions that proved to be cancerous on biopsy.

Of the 69 lesions that turned out to be benign, elastography correctly identified 78% of them.

"We hope to improve on that number as the software continues to improve," Destounis says, adding that elastography has been around for a while but is experiencing a "resurgence."

Elastography Also Being Used to Help Diagnose Skin Cancer

In a second study presented at the meeting, researchers found that high-frequency ultrasound plus elastography helped distinguish between cancerous and benign skin lesions.

Mary C. Mahoney, MD, of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and a spokeswoman for RSNA, tells WebMD that elastography is increasing being used for other conditions as well, including the detection of liver and thyroid malignancies.

"The equipment is relatively commonly available, as is the software," says Mahoney, who was not involved with the research.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Health Check
HEALTH CHECK
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
senior woman
Article
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW