New technology helping doctors detect breast cancer earlier



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Posted on June 4, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 4 at 6:42 PM

The earlier, the better - that's never more true when it comes to detecting breast cancer. Just last year, it killed more than 40,000 women in the U.S., but new technology is helping doctors detect breast cancer earlier than ever.

Kristi McCarthy says when she saw the images from her first digital mammogram, they were eye opening.

"It's just like a picture. It's really amazing and you know I'm not scared. I feel very confident everything is being taken care of," she said.

McCarthy has undergone annual mammograms since her late 20s, in part because of a family history of breast cancer.

Then doctors found a lump.

"I've had a mass in my left breast for about 7 years," said McCarthy.

That mass, about the size of a gumball, is being watched closely by radiologist Dr. Jessie Jacob. She says the transition from analog mammograms to digital is like going from the Model T Ford to a sports car.

"The right side here is an analog image. This is the old way of doing things. We've actually scanned the image into the computer for us so we can digitally compare it. This is the newer way of doing things. This is a digital image. As you can see, it's crisp, it's clear," said Jacob.

Beyond digital mammograms, there's "automated breast ultrasound." Clinical trials will begin soon.

"This is a way to evaluate the whole breast by ultrasound. We can see better into their breast and find abnormalities easier," said Jacob.

For McCarthy, having the new technologies is reassuring.

"I did have a friend who passed away in her 40's. That was such a shock because she was so young - that to me it was even more important I be checked," said McCarthy.

Her checkups continue to show her mass is not changing and it is not cancer.