Earlier this year, Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse announced a new technology to detect early breast cancer.
Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) is now running at the hospital, and it has already detected early breast cancer in patients missed by the traditional mammogram.
The new imaging technology is available at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Florida, Arizona, and now, La Crosse. At least eight women have used the technology since it started operating one week ago, and the technicians say the imaging has already allowed some of those patients to get an earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment.
With a genetic history of breast cancer on both sides of the family, Amanda Kubista-Owen has been getting mammograms from a young age; however, for Amanda and thousands of other women, mammograms do not always detect cancer cells.
"I have denser breast tissue," said Kubista-Owen. "So, that makes it harder from them to catch irregularities on a mammogram."
Research shows the new Molecular Breast Imaging has raised early detection of breast cancer by more than 250-percent.
"On average for a woman with dense breasts, out of one-thousand women that we screen, about four to five will have breast cancer," said Dr. Richard Ellis, Clinical Breast Radiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System. "When we provide supplemental screening with Molecular Breast Imaging or MBI, we increase that with between seven and eight cancers."
A patient undergoing the new imaging technique is injected with a small amount of radioactive material. That material settles on cells or tumors that may be cancerous.
"We're able to pick up that activity within the breast and generate an image to be able to see if there is something abnormal like a breast cancer inside of that very dense breast tissue," said Ellis.
Each of the four photos need for the screening take up to ten minutes to develop. The results are much clearer than any images produced by a mammogram.
"With Molecular Breast Imaging, it doesn't really make a difference you have fatty breasts or extremely dense breast tissue, because it doesn't affect the test," Ellis said.
The new imaging gives women like Amanda hope.
"Hopefully, I'll never have to have breast cancer, never have to worry about getting treatment for that, but I feel like I will rest better knowing that there's better technology out there to detect it," she said.
Doctors predict the Molecular Breast Imaging will be the beginning of more advanced and specialized breast cancer detection and treatment in the future.
Amanda has not gone through the new screening yet. She hopes to try it for the first time before the end of the year.
Ellis said the Molecular Breast Imaging should be used in addition to the mammogram. Women with dense breasts and other risk factors are encouraged to consider the additional screening.
Mayo Clinic Health System is working to keep the new technology affordable. Other locations that have the imaging report that insurance generally covers it although co-pays and deductibles usually apply.
With only one machine currently running at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, space is limited. Women 40 to 75 can learn more about the Density MATTERS Study by calling the Department of Medicine Clinical Trials Unit at 507-266-1944 or visit the website. You can also call the Breast Center at 608-392-9822.