Experimental Breast Imaging

Some newer tests are being studied for breast imaging. These tests are in the earliest stages of research. It will take time to see if any are as good as or better than those used today.

Some newer tests are now being studied for breast imaging. These tests are in the earliest stages of research. It will take time to see if any of them are as good as or better than those we use today.

Optical imaging tests pass light into the breast and then measure the light that returns or passes through the tissue. The technique does not use radiation and does not require breast compression. Studies going on now are looking at combining optical imaging with other tests like MRI or 3D mammography to help diagnose breast cancer.

Molecular breast imaging (MBI) is a newer nuclear medicine imaging test for the breast. It’s being studied as a way to follow up breast problems (such as a lump or an abnormal mammogram). It’s also being studied as a test that can be used along with mammograms for women with dense breasts.

Positron Emission Mammography (PEM) is a newly developed imaging exam of the breast. It uses sugar attached to a radioactive particle to detect cancer cells. The PEM scanner is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Working much like a PET scan, a PEM scan may be better able to detect small clusters of cancer cells within the breast. Right now it’s being studied in women with breast cancer or other breast problems to see if it can show which lumps are cancer.

Electrical impedance imaging (EIT) scans the breast for electrical conductivity. It’s based on the idea that breast cancer cells conduct electricity differently from normal cells. The test passes a very small electrical current through the breast and then detects it on the skin of the breast. This is done using small electrodes that are taped to the skin. EIT does not use radiation or compress the breasts. This test is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help classify tumors found on mammograms. But at this time there hasn’t had enough clinical testing to use it in breast cancer screening.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Weigert JM, Bertrand ML, Lanzkowsky L, Stern LH, Kieper DA. Results of a multicenter patient registry to determine the clinical impact of breast-specific gamma imaging, a molecular breast imaging technique. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2012;198(1):W69-75.

Last Medical Review: June 1, 2016 Last Revised: August 18, 2016

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