New Technology for Better Mammograms to Spot Breast Cancer

Beth Brophy Health Guide

  • Better mammography:
    A new and improved technology for reading mammograms called CAD (computer-aided detection) is described in the latest issue of The Economist. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center are developing a knowledge-based CAD system that compares the images taken by a radiologist with a large collection of normal and abnormal mammograms in a database. The new mammogram reading system has a lower rate of false positives than other systems.

    Why cancer spreads: The great majority of cancer deaths—more than 90 percent of them—are caused when cancer cells begin to spread or metastasize from a primary tumor through the body to a vital organ such as the lungs, bones, brain or liver. Now, according to an illuminating article in the New York Times, scientists are beginning to understand more about metastasis and new therapies are beginning to accumulate. This is widely viewed by researchers as an important milestone in cancer treatment.
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    Breast cancer treatment and heart problems:
    Radiation and the drug Herceptin, widely used to treat breast cancer, can cause heart problems. According to the NY Times, the heart problems can often be treated, so women should not shy away from the treatments. The findings come from two studies. In the first study, women who had radiation to the left breast had an increased risk of heart disease up to 20 years later. Also, 15 percent of the women treated on the left side had heart attacks compared with five percent treated on the right side. The second study, of women who took Herceptin for cancer that had spread beyond the breast, found that in 28 percent of them, their hearts lost some ability to pump. But the problem could usually be reversed with Beta blockers and Ace inhibitors and other medicines.
Published On: August 16, 2006