Working with a team of physicists, Dr. Deborah Rhodes developed a new tool for tumor detection that's 3 times as effective as traditional mammograms for women with dense breast tissue. The life-saving implications are stunning. So why haven't we heard of it? Rhodes shares the story behind the tool's creation, and the web of politics and economics that keep it from mainstream use.
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Mammograms are one of the most complex of all radiology studies to interpret. Mammography relies on differences of appearance of the tumor compared to the background tissue. However both tumors and dense breast tissue appear white on a mammogram and the x-ray often can’t distinguish between the two. Mammograms find over 80% of tumors in fatty breasts but as few as 40% in extremely dense breasts.
Mammograms have been used since the 1960s with very few changes or innovations until digital mammography was approved in 2000. Digitial mammography is still an x-ray of the breast but the images can be stored and manipulated digitally in a similar way to a camera. However a study revealed that digital mammography was found to be generally no better than the traditional method. Although for women with dense breasts it did offer some advantages.
A few years ago another screening method was developed by a physicist and called molecular breast imaging (MBI). MBI analysis uses very light pain-free compression to do the test and exploits the different molecular behavior of tumors and it is therefore impervious to breast density. BMI can also detect tumors as small as 3mm in size.
In 2004 a research grant was approved to study 1,000 women with dense breasts, comparing the results of a screening mammogram to an MBI. The results were astonishing. Mammography found only 25% of the tumors. Whereas MBI found 83%. Apart from its effectiveness, the MBI technology uses only one-fifth of the radiation dose that is used in other technology.
MBI is as accurate as MRI and far less complex to interpret. It generates 4 images per breast. An MRI generates over 1,000 images. MBI is only a fraction of the cost of MRI. After achieving these remarkable results from the study it was rejected from publication in the medical journals.
It is evident that there are forces within the breast imaging world, and indeed the broader medical world, which prefer the status quo and are closed to important and potentially life-saving innovation.
Please watch Dr. Deborah Rhodes’ 21-minute video and decide for yourself. Dr. Deborah Rhodes is an expert at managing breast-cancer risk.
For your information, I understand that MBI is available at Capital Health System in Hopewell, New Jersey.