Breast Cancer Detection Goes Digital

By Vicky Nguyen and Candice Nguyen
|  Wednesday, Apr 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:49 AM PDT
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At El Camino Hospital's Cancer Center in Mountain View, doctors are using cutting edge technologies to find breast cancer at the earliest possible stage.

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Early detection of breast cancer can mean the difference between life and death, a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, non-invasive treatment or full-on chemotherapy.

At El Camino Hospital's Cancer Center in Mountain View, doctors are using cutting edge technologies to find breast cancer at the earliest possible stage.
 
Digital mammography allows doctors to view much clearer images of patients' breasts. Doctors say it's a huge improvement from analog film. The digital images make it easier for doctors to find mammary abnormalities, particularly when patients have dense breast tissue.

Another state-of-the art procedure called Automated Breast Ultrasound is available only in El Camino Hospital as part of a new clinical trial. This trial targets women with dense breast tissue and begins in a couple months. Interested patients should talk with their doctors; the trial is not restricted only to El Camino Hospital patients, but the screening must be done there.
 
"This is a way to evaluate the whole breast by ultrasound." Dr. Jessie Jacob, director of Breast Imaging and Intervention for El Camino Hospital, said. "We can see better into their breast and find abnormalities easier."

High risk breast cancer patients will also have access to a third new cancer screening technology: breast MRI. Jacob says the technology is a much more sensitive cancer screen. It only misses 1-2 percent of breast cancers, compared to 10-15 percent with mammography.

When doctors find cancers smaller than a centimeter, the survival rate is about 95 percent, Jacob says. "If you find it early," Jacob said "you can treat it and go on with your life."

Jacob’s patient, Kristi, says the new technologies are reassuring.

"I had a friend who passed away in her 40s [from breast cancer]. That was such a shock because she was so young." Kristi said. "To me, it was very important I be checked.”

So far, her doctor says Kristi's mass is benign, and she continues to remain breast cancer free.

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