Newer and Experimental Breast Imaging Tests
The most commonly used breast imaging tests at this time are mammograms, ultrasound, and breast MRI.
Newer types of tests are now being developed for breast imaging. Some of these, such as breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography), are already being used in some centers. Other tests are still being studied, and it will take time to see if they are as good as or better than those used today.
Molecular breast imaging (MBI), also known as scintimammography or breast-specific gamma imaging (BSGI), is a type of nuclear medicine imaging test for the breast. A radioactive chemical is injected into the blood, and a special camera is used to see into the breast. This test is being studied mainly as a way to follow up breast problems (such as a lump or an abnormal mammogram), or to help determine the extent of breast cancer that has already been diagnosed. It’s also being studied as a test that can be used along with mammograms to look for cancer in women with dense breasts. One potential drawback is that it exposes the whole body to radiation, so it’s unlikely this test would be used for screening every year.
Positron emission mammography (PEM) is a newer imaging test of the breast that is very similar to a PET scan. A form of sugar attached to a radioactive particle is injected into the blood to detect cancer cells. A PEM scan may be better able to detect small clusters of cancer cells within the breast. Right now it’s being studied mainly in women with breast cancer to see if it can help determine the extent of the cancer. As with MBI, it exposes the whole body to radiation, so it’s unlikely to be a test that could be used every year for breast cancer screening.