A new study shows that combining a technology called optical tomography with standard ultrasound imaging can help distinguish early-stage breast cancer from non-cancerous lesions--and potentially reduce the number of breast biopsies performed.
Only 10 to 15 percent of women who undergo a breast biopsy actually have a malignant tumor, leading many women to experience unnecessary anxiety, discomfort and expense. Ultrasound is often used to further evaluate suspicious breast lesions found by mammography. But its results are not always reliable enough to avoid a biopsy, in which some of the breast tissue is surgically removed and examined.
By combining ultrasound with optical tomography, which employs diffused light in the near infrared (NIR) spectrum, the researchers were able to calculate the concentration of oxygen-carrying blood cells--or hemoglobin--and microvessels present in each lesion. A high density of microvessels in a tumor is known to be highly correlated with malignancy.
It was found that early-stage invasive cancers have a two-fold higher total hemoglobin concentration compared with benign lesions, the findings which demonstrate that the technique has great potential for distinguishing malignant and benign masses to reduce benign biopsies in a non-invasive way.
In the study, 65 patients with a total of 81 breast lesions were examined with ultrasound and optical tomography. Breast lesions were then biopsied. The biopsy results confirmed eight invasive cancers and 73 benign lesions.
The combination of the two technologies is expected to revolutionize the breast cancer diagnosis. Ultrasound locates the lesion, while optical tomography helps calculate the blood volume in the lesion.