Ultrasound plus mammography finds more cancers, but increases false positives

September 29, 2007

Adding ultrasound to mammography finds more cancers than mammography alone, but also substantially increases the number of false positives, according to first-year results from a three-year study of the two tests.

“At this point, it’s not clear whether the benefit provided by ultrasound outweighs the additional expense, stress and inconvenience caused by the false positives,” said study co-author Etta Pisano, M.D., vice dean for academic affairs in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Kenan professor of radiology and biomedical engineering and director of the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center.

“We know that ultrasound does find more cancers. The question is, does it find enough more cancers to make it worthwhile?” she said.

The results were presented today (Sept. 28) at the American College of Radiology’s fall meeting in Washington, D.C.

The study’s principal investigator and lead author is Wendie A. Berg, M.D., Ph.D., of American Radiology Services, located at Johns Hopkins at Greenspring Station in Lutherville, Md. UNC Hospitals is one of the primary study sites, with an enrollment of 198 women (7.5 percent of the study participants).

In the study, 2,637 women at high risk for breast cancer received both mammography and ultrasound exams. The tests were performed by physicians who received special training in breast ultrasound screening. Among the participants, 41 breast cancers were found in 40 women (one had cancer in both breasts) by one or both of the tests. Twelve of the cancers were found by ultrasound alone.

The addition of ultrasound resulted in 136 (5.2 percent) women having biopsies due to suspicion of cancer. Of these women, 14 or 8.5 percent were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Based on these results, the authors concluded that adding ultrasound to mammography will find approximately an additional one to seven cancers per 1,000 high-risk women who had not previously been screened by ultrasound, but will also substantially increase the number of false positives.

“We had hoped to see a bigger effect of ultrasound compared to mammography,” Pisano said. “But I think these results show it’s a mixed picture at this point.”

Pisano said that the study will add magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams in its third year, allowing researchers to directly compare the effectiveness of MRI, ultrasound and mammography.

“At that point we will have good data on the cost-effectiveness of MRI versus ultrasound on top of mammography,” she said. “That will be the definitive analysis.”

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Explore further: MRI offers 100% screening certainty for diagnostic exclusion of breast cancer

Related Stories

The do-nothing dilemma—surveillance vs. surgery for cancer

August 2, 2016

Imagine for a moment that you have a tiny but worrisome lung nodule or, say, a growing bulge in a crucial blood vessel. You have no choice but to continue with normal life: going to work, running errands, paying taxes, negotiating ...

UA engineers zero in on early detection of ovarian cancer

May 31, 2016

University of Arizona researcher Jennifer Barton is leading a two-year, $1 million project funded by the National Cancer Institute to identify imaging biomarkers of ovarian cancer, the most deadly gynecological cancer in ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.