New technology to detect breast cancer

An inexpensive screening procedure for early, non-invasive detection of breast cancer

doctor performing breast examination for a patientThe incidence of breast cancer among women in India is increasing with every passing day. There are several reasons for it from lack of awareness to untimely diagnosis. For early diagnosis of breast cancer, Siemens Healthcare has introduced a unique technology called Breast Elasticity. eSie TouchTM, a new software technology uses the breast elasticity technique to supplement regular ultrasound examinations to differentiate relative stiffness of tissue. Harder tissues are usually malignant and softer ones benign.

Breast elasticity imaging is available with ACUSON Antares, a premium ultrasound system. The combination of high image quality by Antares with eSie TouchTM elasticity imaging provides the physician with higher diagnostic confidence for breast examination. Elasticity imaging also helps to image dense breast lesions that are missed out in a mammography scan, which is a gold standard method of detecting tumours in a breast. The technique is relatively easy. In most cases, the heartbeat and breathing of the patient creates sufficient strain to generate an elastogram. Imaging using the elasticity technique offers a huge potential in patient care. It helps physicians by allowing early diagnosis through non-invasive technique; it helps the patient face fewer traumas and makes the process cost-effective and time-saving.

Breast elasticity

When tumours grow infiltrating the tissues, they change the elasticity—stiffness or hardness—of those tissues. Also, malignant tumours feel harder than benign ones and this physical property relates to their coefficient of elasticity. While the tumour is growing, there often exists relative homogeneity of tissues—the change that is well demonstrated on elasticity or strain imaging. Elasticity imaging illustrates the relative stiffness of tissue compared to its surroundings.

This application helps the physician to visualise the tissue elasticity with ultrasound. He also gets additional information about mechanical properties like the stiffness of breast lesions. This is an enormous advancement providing greater accuracy in diagnosis of breast cancer for the first time in India.

Benefits

While ultrasound examinations do not eliminate biopsies, this new method may greatly reduce the number of breast biopsies. A biopsy is not only uncomfortable, painful invasive procedure, but also requires a long wait before the results. Estimates by experts show that approximately 75 per cent of all biopsies are negative. As a result, elasticity imaging offers a huge potential to improve patient care and lowers costs at the same time.

With ultrasound system, the physician can avail the benefit of conventional B-mode imaging feature that provides anatomy, doppler imaging for vascular flow and the latest strain or elasticity imaging to generate an elastogram.

This breast elasticity method avoids the usual method of applying pressure on the breast to get a better image quality. In most cases, the heart beat and the breathing of the patient provides a sufficient movement to generate the elastogram.

In short, the major benefits of breast elasticity are diagnostic confidence for physicians, early detection and non-invasive procedure, for patients.

Risk factors

There are no risks involved in this technique. The software called eSieTouchTM is incorporated in the ultrasound system called ACUSON Antares. Physicians basically use this as a normal ultrasound diagnosis. Any other concerns regarding this technique—for women with a particular health condition [disease, pregnancy, etc] should not undergo this procedure. This is not a procedure, but a screening test performed using an ultrasound and the patient feels no difference. It is basically an ultrasound screening and no precautions are required.

Future

Elasticity imaging is just scratching the surface of how it can be used in multiple clinical environments. For example, the new technology called ARFI [Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse] is being used for liver elasticity. In the near future, this technology can have applications in lymph nodes, thyroid, testes, musculoskeletal, vascular, renal, etc.

The cost of the procedure depends on the configuration of the equipment. The cost of any diagnostic test in India depends completely on the physician, the locality where he is practicing and the lifestyle of his patients.

List of hospitals where it is available

This technology is installed with five leading institutions in India:

  • Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai
  • Dr Mukund Joshi's Clinic, Mumbai
  • AIIMS, Delhi
  • Apollo Hospital, Chennai
  • Dr Praveen's Clinic, Hyderabad.

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