It's estimated ten percent of cancers in older women are missed and up to twenty percent in younger women. American women undergo some 30 million mammograms every year. The breast X-ray is the gold standard in detecting breast cancer, particularly early tumors.
Last week advisors to the FDA recommended approval of a digitized mammogram that gives doctors an enhanced image of breast tissue. Doctors hope the computerized x-ray will make it easier to view a spot that is too light or too dark on a standard mammogram's X-ray film.
The digital mammogram will allow doctors to store images and compare breast tissue from one year to the next. It is expected to receive FDA approval in the near future.
Another screening device is being developed to detect breast cancer in younger women. Mammograms are typically used for women over age 50.
Doctors aim to use a more detailed test for women under forty. Probes are put in each breast to detect minor temperature changes over a forty-eight hour period in order to tell who is at high risk for the disease.
To diagnose breast cancer a biopsy must be performed. One technique on the horizon to reduce the need for this surgery is thermal imaging. Doctors are testing to see whether this technology can effectively detect cancerous cells, which emit more heat than non-cancerous ones.
Doctors say use of thermal imaging could reduce 700-800,000 biopsies a year.