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Medical News & Perspectives
January 27, 1999

Ultrasound May Markedly Improve Cancer Detection in Dense Breasts

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JAMA. 1999;281(4):311-312. doi:10.1001/jama.281.4.311-JMN0127-2-1

Ultrasound examination can overcome much of the decreased sensitivity of mammography in a search for cancer in patients with radiographically dense breasts, said Thomas M. Kolb, MD, at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). "Ultrasound can help us detect cancer in women with dense breasts at an earlier, more curable stage."

A scale of 1 to 4 is used to grade the density of breast tissue: 1 is fattiest and least dense; 4 is glandular and most dense. Breast density is directly related to the amount of glandular and fibrous tissue; it can be discerned only by mammography and has nothing to do with the size, texture, shape, or lumpiness of a woman's breasts, said Kolb, who is assistant clinical professor of radiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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