New tool to detect breast cancer

Sherri McGee went for a mammogram, as she does every year. She was walking out the door when a radiologis approached her and asked if she wanted to take part in a study. McGee agreed.

Immediately, they put her in a room and scanned her again, this time using a new 3-D tool - an automated breast ultra sound. It took only a few minutes - and she went home, not thinking about it again until two weeks later, when the phone rang.

“They called and said that my mammogram was clear but something had shown up on the ultrasound,” McGee says. “And they told me it was cancer.”

A biopsy confirmed it.

McGee's radiologist, Dr. Rachel Brem, says they now have a powerful tool.

Brem explains that mammograms can miss cancer in women with dense breast tissue because the tissue and the cancer both show up as white masses. But in the automated breast ultrasound the contrast is clear.

“In women who have dense breasts mammography is less effective and a third of breast cancers are not seen on a mammogram,” Brem says.

Brem says the new 3-D ultrasound device is meant to be used in combination with a mammogram.

If McGee had not stopped to take part in that study, she would not have been back until her next annual mammogram.

“It would have been a year later, had a year to grow, so it would have perhaps spread into the lymph nodes, or wherever, and I'd be dealing with something a little different,” McGee says. “I feel very, very fortunate.”