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What are the newer imaging tests for breast cancer?

Several new imaging methods are now being studied for evaluating abnormalities that may be breast cancers.
  • Scintimammography (molecular breast imaging):  In scintimammography, a slightly radioactive tracer called technetium sestamibi is injected into a vein. The tracer attaches to breast cancer cells and is detected by a special camera. This is a newer technique. Some radiologists believe it is sometimes useful in looking at suspicious areas found by regular mammograms, but its exact role remains unclear. Current research is aimed at improving the technology and evaluating its use in specific situations such as in the dense breasts of younger women. Some early studies have suggested that it may be almost as accurate as more expensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. This test, however, will not replace your usual screening mammogram.
  • Tomosynthesis (3D mammography): This technology is basically an extension of a digital mammogram. For this test, a woman lies face down on a table with a hole for the breast to hang through, and a machine takes x-rays as it rotates around the breast. Tomosynthesis allows the breast to be viewed as many thin slices, which can be combined into a 3-dimensional picture. It may allow doctors to detect smaller lesions or ones that would otherwise be hidden with standard mammograms. This technology is still considered experimental and is not yet available.
Several other experimental imaging methods, including thermal imaging (thermography) are discussed in the separate American Cancer Society document, Mammograms and Other Breast Imaging Procedures, available on www.cancer.org or by calling 1-800-227-2345.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.