New mammogram technique ‘better predictor of breast cancer’

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A new technique for interpreting mammograms has been found to be 30 per cent more accurate at predicting breast cancer, researchers say.

Key points:

  • The new interpreting technique focuses on bright spots that show up in mammograms
  • Researchers gathered data from 350 women with breast cancer and about 1,000 women without cancer
  • One researcher says the new technique could “change mammographic screening across the world”

Currently, one in 12 Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.

The new technique, which focuses on bright spots that show up in a mammogram, could transform routine screening and save lives.

Melbourne University Professor John Hopper said the research was invaluable for younger women in particular.

“[The technique is designed] to get a picture of their risk, both in terms of their family history, any genetic predisposition and their mammographic density according to these bright areas,” he said.

“And then deciding at that stage what should be a woman’s future breast screening management.”

Researchers gathered data from 350 women with breast cancer and about 1,000 women without.

They found the bright areas of a mammogram provided far more information about future breast cancers.

Professor Hopper said using computers to analyse data generated by the new technique could have far-reaching implications.

“Taking the information in a mammogram, just numbers that come off the screen, and having computer scientists look at that… to try and work out what other features are in the mammogram that predict risk,” he said.

“This could really change mammographic screening across the world.”

Radiologists have long known when studying a mammogram, areas of breast density that show up as white or bright spots, are very telling.

“The bright and white areas [on mammograms] do two things,” Professor Hopper said.

“One, that they mask or hide existing tumours, but on the other hand they’re telling us something about women at greatest risk of developing breast cancer in the future.”

The research was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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