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Health: New Technology Helps Doctors Uncover Breast Cancer That Can Be Difficult To Detect

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The countdown is on for this Sunday's Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure for breast cancer.

Women with dense breasts, and there are millions, have an increased risk of cancer because detection can be difficult.

There's a new law in Pennsylvania that those women be notified about the risk. Tonight, health reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on a new technology that helps doctors uncover breast cancer that can be difficult to detect.

Athena Merritt is getting a new screening designed for women, like her, who have dense breasts.

The automated breast ultrasound provides a three dimensional image which can detect hard-to-see cancer.

"Early detection is the key and for the first time, I feel like I have a chance at early detection."

Holy Redeemer is one of the first in the area to offer the automated ultrasound that's done in conjunction with regular mammograms.

"Some studies say up to a third more cancers can be found when you combine these modalities. It's going to give us one more tool to be able to identify cancers that would not otherwise be mammographically detected."

Breast surgeon Beth Dupree says this is what a regular breast looks like. With a traditional mammogram, it's easier to spot potential trouble, that shows up white. But with dense breasts, it's almost all white, which can hide cancer.

"I call it white on rice. You can't find that polar bear in the snow because it is obscured by the dense tissue."

Pennsylvania has a new law that requires women with dense breast be notified. They have an increased risk of breast cancer because it's difficult to find.

"After I get these, there's a high level of concern that maybe there's something there that they didn't catch."

Athena, who is 45, not only has dense breasts, she has a family history of breast cancer with her grandmother and mom.

"We got it for Mother's Day, it was because her breast cancer was in remission."

Athena and her mom got matching tattoos of a breast cancer ribbon made of Chinese dragons. So far, doctors say Athena has no sign of breast cancer: the new automated ultrasound providing that extra level of detection.

"I just feel more comfortable that there really isn't anything there, that I can really breathe a sigh of relief and be confident that there's not a lump or something that is obscured because of density of my breast."

The new automated breast ultrasound, which is called ABUS is FDA approved and usually covered by insurance.

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