ABUS: Cancer Screening for Dense Breasts

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Mammograms are the gold standard in detecting breast cancer, but they can miss tumors in women with dense breasts. The automated whole breast ultrasound, or ABUS has been finding some of those lesions in just fifteen minutes. (KFSN)

Mammograms are the gold standard in detecting breast cancer, but they can miss tumors in women with dense breasts. The automated whole breast ultrasound, or ABUS has been finding some of those lesions in just fifteen minutes.

Hope Levy is a songwriter and musician who does have time for the newest technology in breast cancer screening.

Levy has dense breast tissue, and a mammogram could miss a small cancer. Instead of adding an MRI, she's at Cedars-Sinai Imaging for the automated whole breast ultrasound, or ABUS.

A technician uses a probe which makes 3 passes over each breast.

Levy told Ivanhoe, "It felt like a light compression, almost like a massage, kind of."

The ABUS uses soundwaves to create 3-d images.

Cynthia Litwer, MD, a breast imaging specialist at Cedars-Sinai Imaging in Los Angeles explained, "The mammogram picks up about four to five cancers per 1000 patients, and the ultrasound picks up an additional two to three cancers per 1000 for patients with dense breast tissue. So we use them together."

The ABUS is best for women like Levy, who have dense breasts and are at a slightly higher breast cancer risk.

Levy said, "I'm happy that I did it because it seems like it's the best way to see if there's something going on, I want to know. And now I'm like, can we do this on other parts of my body, like my brain?"

An ABUS screening can cost between 200 and 350 dollars and is sometimes covered by insurance. It's not for everyone. It picks up a number of false positives and benign masses, so women who are low risk with fatty breasts aren't good candidates.
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