TAMPA - Kay Rynear feels lucky to be alive. She had an aggressive breast cancer that doctors found difficult to diagnose with the standard screening test: a mammogram.
Dr. Jennifer Drukteinis, The Research Director of Breast Imaging at Moffitt Cancer Center, shows us her mammogram images.
"I think it's very, very difficult to look at the pattern and say which breast has the cancer in it. The only thing we saw was some very mild skin thickening."
An MRI was ordered.
"On the MRI images you can see she has at least a five centimeter tumor. So, this whole area is tumor and the left breast is completely normal," Dr. Drukteinis said.
She said this case illustrates the need for better screening, and is involved in a research study that may change the way screenings are done.
"Essentially what we do is high and low energy images, through the mammogram, of the area the radiologist has deemed suspicious," she said.
Using a special filter, they get different images and some important data.
"Then we look at the lipid, water and protein content of the abnormality and what we've found is actually a decreased lipid content within malignant tumors and an increased water content. And if we could do this advanced analysis on abnormalities recommended for biopsy perhaps we could say 'this is safe to wait six months' instead of just doing the biopsy," she said.
"About one in ten women over ten years of screening will end up with a breast biopsy and only about 20 percent end up cancer so were doing a lot of unnecessary biopsies."
For Kay, an additional test was necessary, but in the future, this additional analysis might prevent patients from having to go through expensive additional procedures like MRI's.
Right now, they are enrolling women at Moffitt for the five year study - which is showing good results so far. If they receive FDA approval - the additional analysis could become part of a woman's annual mammogram screening.
For information on the study: Call (813) 745-4090.