A new method has been developed, when applied with MRI scans of the breast, can help rid women with breast cancer risk of the pain and stress of having to endure a biopsy of the lump or lesion.
Researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison have suggested this new method.
It is recommended that women with certain breast cancer risk factors, including inherited genetic mutations, family or personal history of breast cancer, or previous radiation therapy to the chest should receive an annual MRI screening in addition to their yearly mammogram.
During a breast MRI, which lasts about a half hour, the technician injects a contrast agent into a vein in the patient's arm.
The contrast agent flows throughout the body, including the breasts.
Because they are growing quickly, cancerous lesions often have immature vasculature, and the contrast agent flows in and "leaks" out quickly. Conversely, benign lesions show more gradual in and out flow.
"The tricky ones are the ones that enhance quickly and then fall off more slowly," said Wally Block, a UW-Madison associate professor of biomedical engineering and medical physics.
"Many of these lesions turn out to be difficult to classify and lead to biopsy," Block added.
The researchers suggest that right kind of MRI scan can help identify a cancerous lesion based on characteristics about its shape.
For instance, breaks or interruptions in a lesion can indicate a benign fibroadenoma. Lumps with smooth edges often are benign, while those with jagged edges can signal cancer.
With the new technique, an MRI machine acquires data radially and generates a high-resolution, three-dimensional image that radiologists can turn, slice and view from many perspectives, enabling them to study a lesion's physical characteristics more carefully.
Machines equipped with the technique also acquire more data in less time.