Positron emmission mammography (PEM) is a relatively new breast cancer screening technology where a glucose-based tracer is used to detect breast cancer cells at a stage where they are often not detectable by other methods like mammagraphy or ultrasound. Since breast cancer cells have a high metabolic activity, they take up this tracer in higher amounts than surrounding cells and can then be easily visualized with a positron emmision scanner.
A new breast cancer study compared PEM to MRI in 388 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The breast cancer patients underwent both MRI and PEM in a randomized order and the performance of the two methods was compared. During the breast cancer screenings, 82 additional cancers were detected. A comparison of the performance of these two breast cancer screening methods showed:
- 34% of these additional breast cancers (28 of 82) were detected by both PEM and MRI when used as separate screening tests. Another 26% were detected by MRI alone, 17% by PEM alone, and 8.5% by mammography plus ultrasound.
- When integrating PEM and MRI screening methods, 74% of these new breast cancers were detected in comparison to 60% detection using MRI alone.
- When examining the other 306 breast cancer patients, PEM correctly diagnosed breast cancer in 91% of the cases compared to 86% correctly diagnosed with MRI.
- PEM more accurately detected cancerous breast tumors (66%) compared to MRI (53%).
- Of the 56 women requiring mastectomy, 71% were identified with MRI, while only 36% were identified with PEM.
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