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Breast Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Screening - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Breast Cancer Screening Modalities—Beyond Mammography



Using infrared imaging techniques, thermography of the breast identifies temperature changes in the skin as an indicator of an underlying tumor, displaying these changes in color patterns. Thermographic devices have been approved by the FDA under the 510(k) process, which does not require evidence of clinical effectiveness. There have been no randomized trials of thermography to evaluate the impact on breast cancer mortality or the ability to detect breast cancer. Small cohort studies do not suggest any additional benefit for the use of thermography as an adjunct modality for breast cancer screening.[30,31]

Tissue Sampling (Fine-Needle Aspiration, Nipple Aspirate, Ductal Lavage)

Various methods to analyze breast tissue for malignancy have been proposed as screening methods for breast cancer.

Random periareolar fine-needle aspirates were performed in 480 women at high risk for breast cancer, and the women were monitored for a median of 45 months.[32] Twenty women developed breast neoplasms (13 invasive and 7 ductal carcinomain situ[DCIS]). Using multiple logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards analysis, a diagnosis of hyperplasia with atypia was found to be associated with the subsequent development of DCIS and invasive breast cancer.

Nipple aspirate fluid cytology was studied in 2,701 women who were monitored for subsequent incidence of breast cancer, with an average of 12.7 years of follow-up.[33] Breast cancer incidence overall was 4.4%, including 11 cases of DCIS and 93 cases of invasive cancer, and was associated with abnormal nipple aspirate fluid cytology. Whereas the breast neoplasm rate was only 2.6% for 352 women in whom no fluid could be aspirated, it was 5.5% for 327 women with epithelial hyperplasia and 10.3% for 58 women with atypical hyperplasia.

One study reported results of nipple aspiration followed by ductal lavage in 507 women at high risk for breast cancer.[34] Nipple aspirate fluid was obtained from 417 women, but only 111 (27%) were adequate samples. A total of 383 ductal lavage samples were evaluated, 299 (78%) of which were adequate for diagnosis. Abnormal cells were found in 92 (24%) ductal lavage samples, including 88 (17%) with mild atypia, 23 (6%) with marked atypia, and 1 (<1%) malignant. The corresponding numbers and percentages for nipple aspiration fluid were 16 (6%), 8 (3%), and 1 (<1%). Discomfort with the ductal lavage procedure was judged by participants to be comparable to mammography. Because ductal lavage screening has not been compared to mammography and there is no evidence of efficacy or mortality reduction, its use as a screening or diagnostic tool remains investigational.


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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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