The heightened awareness of breast cancer has undoubtedly led to a growing number of women getting regular breast cancer screenings.
As a result, patients are experiencing more positive outcomes due to early detection, advanced treatment options, less invasive surgical procedures, and cutting-edge breast reconstruction techniques.
On that note, Bedford Breast Center’s Dr. Richardson believes that 2022 will be another year that sees women taking better control of their breast health or taking a more proactive approach to reducing their risk of breast cancer.
Below, Dr. Richardson shares her breast screening and breast cancer treatment predictions for 2022.
Increase in Breast Ultrasounds
While mammograms have long been considered the gold standard for breast cancer detection, they have their limitations.
Mammograms are less effective for women with dense breasts (breasts that have more glandular and connective tissue).
Research shows that women with dense breasts can be twice as likely to develop cancer as those with non-dense breasts. It is also more difficult for mammograms to detect cancer in dense breast tissue.
If you undergo a mammogram, your results will indicate whether you have dense breast tissue. At our Beverly Hills medical center, breast surgeons Dr. Richardson and Dr. Memsic recommend an annual screening breast ultrasound for a more complete evaluation if you have dense breast tissue or breast implants.
Ultrasounds, when combined with mammograms, will improve breast cancer detection in women with dense breasts.
A breast ultrasound is a type of imaging test that utilizes high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed images of the breast’s internal structures. Dense glandular tissue is harder to distinguish from cancerous masses on a traditional mammogram, and a breast ultrasound can provide a clearer image.
A sonographer performs a breast ultrasound by slowly moving a handheld transducer over each breast.
The sound waves bounce off the breast tissue which are picked up by the transducer. The bounced sound waves are then transformed into images, allowing breast specialists to view the tissue inside the breasts.
The procedure is completely painless and does not require any preparation or downtime.
By Patient Request
As researchers continue to discover new ways to detect breast cancer, women will have more options to choose from, whether in the form of ultrasound technology or an MRI.
Every breast screening option has its benefits, limitations, and risks, which is why it is important to talk with your doctor to determine which type of screening is best for you.
The following are some of the newer breast cancer screening tools that will gain even more attention this year:
Automated Breast Ultrasound
Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS) is another way ultrasound can be utilized for women with dense breasts. The principles of automated ultrasound and regular handheld screening ultrasound are the same.
Some people are given the impression that rebus ultrasound somehow looks at the tissue in a completely different way, which is not the case, but it is still very helpful.
An ultrasound is performed and then a radiologist reads it, often after the patient has already left the screening facility. Many of the ultrasound machines that are designed for automated screening studies have different sizes and shapes of the ultrasound imaging probe to allow more of the breast tissue to be seen. In some models, all of the breast tissue can be screened at once.
ABUS creates a recorded image that allows radiologists to look through hundreds of breast tissue pictures – specifically, slices and layers of dense tissue to find breast cancer. Like all ultrasound, ABUS provides improved visibility compared to a mammogram and makes for a great screening option for women with dense breasts, or those who wish to supplement their routine mammography screening.
Automated breast ultrasound is efficient and quick, allowing more women to take advantage of the benefits of ultrasound. Two potential drawbacks are that you won’t necessarily get immediate results, and if something is seen on the specialized study, you’ll have to come back for a regular handheld ultrasound in real time.
Fast Breast MRI
Women with dense breasts or those at a higher risk for breast cancer can also opt for a Fast Breast MRI for breast screening following a mammogram. Traditional MRI typically takes 45 minutes to complete, but a Fast Breast MRI (also referred to as Abbreviated Breast MRI) only takes 10 minutes to perform – a feature Dr. Richardson believes will appeal to many women.
During the examination, the technologist will take an initial set of scans and then use an IV (in the hand, wrist, or elbow) to inject a contrast dye before taking another set of scans.
Unlike mammography, Fast Breast MRI does not use radiation and does not compress your breasts. It uses a combination of radio waves, contrast dye, and a magnetic field to create highly detailed 3D images of the breast.
A specially trained breast radiologist will interpret the findings and send the results to your doctor.
Thermography or thermal imaging is a non-invasive screening option that involves no radiation and is used to supplement a mammography screening. Thermography devices are digital infrared imaging devices, which work like special cameras for measuring the skin’s temperature on the breast’s surface.
Thermography is based on the idea that cancer cells rapidly grow and multiply, resulting in higher blood flow and metabolism in some cancer tumors. Therefore, when blood flow and metabolic activity increase, skin temperature should go up too. Areas with cancer sometimes reflect higher temperatures than normal parts of the breast.
For Dr. Richardson, thermography poses very few risks since there is no radiation or compression used. However, it is not a very specific tool as healthy breast tissue can have increased temperature differentials as well.
Cancers are not reliably seen on thermography, but it may be a reasonable supplementary tool for screening mammography to add an additional layer of information with little to no downside.
During the procedure, the patient stands in front of the imaging system, and the technician takes a series of images (front and side views) of the breast. Your doctor will analyze these images and give you your results.
Blood Testing for Tumor Markers
Blood testing for tumor markers (biomarkers found in the blood) is a method used for detecting cancer early, identifying if cancer treatments are working, or determining if the cancer is likely to recur.
Tumor markers are substances (often proteins) produced by cancer cells or by the body in response to cancer. There are no absolute or reliable blood tests to detect breast cancer in a healthy woman at this time, but there is much research being done on this topic with hopes for a helpful test in the future.
Fat grafting, or fat transfer, is already a common breast reconstruction technique following a mastectomy. Dr. Richardson is confident that this technique will only continue to gain more attention and popularity as more and more women are preferring to use their own tissue instead of an implant to achieve natural-looking results.
In fat grafting, fat tissue is harvested from donor areas such as the thighs, belly, and buttocks through liposuction. The extracted tissue is processed into a liquid and injected as filler into the breast area to recreate the breast. The main advantages of fat grafting are:
- Uses the patient’s own tissue
- Results in slimmer donor areas
- May preserve some sensation for some patients
- Provides a natural look and feel
Fat Necrosis after Fat Grafting
Using fat grafting for breast reconstruction can sometimes cause fat cells to die and form lumps due to the lack of oxygen and blood supply. This hardening of fat that may occur is called fat necrosis.
Breast augmentation using fat transfer is a common trigger for fat necrosis because the grafted fat cells may not survive and ultimately form scar tissue. Fat necrosis is a common complication that may result in either hardened lumps or oil cysts.
While fat necrosis is benign, it is still important to be aware of any changes in your breast to minimize overall risk. If you notice a firm or pliable lump in the breast after fat transfer, redness surrounding the lump, or slight bruising surrounding the lump, seek medical advice.
Should your doctor determine that the lumps or mass in the breasts are due to fat necrosis and are not cancerous cells, you may choose to treat it or monitor it to see if it dissipates on its own. However, if the lump is causing significant discomfort or aesthetic problems, it may be advisable to address it surgically.
If the fat necrosis is in liquefied form, intervention generally involves needle aspiration. This procedure inserts a thin, hollow needle to drain the oily contents of the cyst, causing it to dissolve quickly.
Solid forms of fat necrosis can often be improved or removed with a minimally invasive procedure. Doctors typically use ultrasound guidance to effectively locate all hardened lumps. Multiple lumps may require more than one treatment session.
Schedule A Breast Cancer Screening Appointment At Our Medical Center Today
Bedford Breast Center strives to help keep women informed on breast cancer detection and treatment options.
We want to make it easier for you with 3D mammography, same-day appointments for urgent issues such as abnormal findings on imaging results, as well as on-site consultations with a breast surgical oncologist, so there is no gap between evaluation and treatment.