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Stereo mammograms, being developed by Cambridge, Mass.-based BBN Technologies, work essentially the same way. Separate X-rays are taken at slightly different angles. Then radiologists wear glasses that make each eye see a separate image on special monitors. The brain "reads" that as a single, 3-D view.
In a soon-to-be-published study, Emory radiologists gave nearly 1,500 women at increased risk of breast cancer both a mammogram and a stereo mammogram. Different radiologists analyzed each test. When researchers put together the results, the stereo mammograms increased detection of cancer by 23 percent, Newell says. Another plus, it decreased false-alarms by 46 percent.
The Mayo Clinic's so-called molecular breast imaging, or MBI, takes a different approach -- detecting how tumorous tissue acts instead of how it looks.
Doctors inject women with a drug known as a radioactive tracer, one cardiologists have used in heart stress tests for years. It tends to briefly collect in breast tumors, lighting up for viewing when Mayo switches on a small gamma camera.
The exam can be done in the same visit, even the same room, as a mammogram, while MRIs require injecting a different drug and spending an hour inside a doughnut-shaped magnetized machine, notes Mayo radiology fellow Carrie Beth Hruska.
Mayo researchers compared the records of 48 high-risk women who got both an experimental MBI and, within a month, a regular MRI. The faster MBI detected almost as many cancers -- 51 tumors in 30 patients -- as did the proven MRIs, which found 53 cancers in 31 patients, Hruska told a Defense Department breast cancer conference last week.
Stay tuned: Mayo just finished a study of 2,000 women comparing the gamma-camera technique to standard mammograms, and Hruska says additional government-funded studies at other hospitals will begin later this year.
Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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