Since dense breast tissue can hide cancer on mammography, some hospitals and imaging centers in the U.S. are turning to breast ultrasound as a supplemental screening tool.
NorthShore University Health System in Chicago performs 40 automated breast ultrasound exams per day and has doubled its cancer detection rate.
“Over the past several years, one of the biggest challenges is detecting breast cancer in women who have dense or extremely dense breast tissue,” Dr. Georgia Giakoumis Spear, chief of the department of breast imaging at NorthShore, told HCB News. “We know that there are limitations with mammography alone and that we are missing up to one-third of breast cancer in this population of patients.”
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The health system runs four hospitals and five satellite imaging centers with a staff of 13 dedicated breast imagers. In November 2015, they deployed two of GE Healthcare’s Invenia ABUS systems and after eight months they purchased another two systems.
“We have a very large population of patients with dense breast tissue and they are very informed, given the increasing legislation that’s notifying patients of their tissue type,” said Spear.
NorthShore decided ABUS was a better option than handheld ultrasound because it offers more reproducibility and consistency. A technologist can perform the exam in 15 to 20 minutes and the images are then post-processed on a workstation, where the radiologist can view them in 3-D planes.
In the last 15 months, NorthShore’s cancer detection rate doubled and its recall rate declined, which had a direct effect on lessening patient anxiety. It was also noted that the positive biopsy rate is very high.
NorthShore is reaping the benefits now, but when ABUS was first introduced Spear and her team had to deal with a major challenge. Since it was such a new technology, the referring physicians had many questions about it.
“Referring physicians spend a lot of time with patients and a lot of questions are raised,” said Spear. “We have to make sure that we provide that type of education for the referring physician in order to understand exactly what our goals are and what the limitations and strengths of the program are.”
At the National Consortium of Breast Centers Conference this week in Las Vegas, Spear is giving a presentation on NorthShore’s success with ABUS. Over the next three years, Spear and her colleagues are conducting a clinical trial to establish the efficacy of ABUS as a screening tool.
“We hope it will help establish much needed practice guidelines on how to implement such a program and utilize this tool,” she said.Back to HCB News