Breast Cancer Awareness Month Offers Exciting News of New Techniques for Measuring Breast Density
By Kathy Sena
Two new studies have tested three different methods for accurately measuring breast density, the relative portion of tissue to fat in a woman's breasts and a strong indicator of breast-cancer risk.
Both studies were conducted by a group of medical physicists at the University of California, Irvine and were presented recently at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) in Philadelphia.
The first study compared two existing techniques for measuring breast density: cone-beam computed tomography (CT) and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Both techniques gave highly similar estimates of breast density. The second study showed the promise of a third technique, called dual-energy mammography, for measuring breast density.
"A better measure of breast density should yield a more accurate assessment of risk for developing breast cancer," says medical physicist Justin Ducote, who presented the work on dual-energy mammography in Philadelphia.
Doctors have known since the 1970s that women who have dense breasts are at greater risk for developing breast cancer. Tumors may be more difficult to detect when imaging dense breast tissue, since they have a greater portion of glandular tissue relative to the amount of fatty tissue, and the glandular tissue can obscure tumors.
"Measuring breast density is difficult as there is no gold-standard method for doing so," says Ducote.