High-Tech Facility Offers Most Advanced Technology for Screening and Diagnosing Cancer and Other Breast Problems
The University of Maryland Medical Center has opened a new Breast Center with all-digital imaging technology and a staff of specialists who focus solely on breast health, including diagnosing and treating a full range of cancerous and benign breast conditions. The new center provides screening and diagnostic mammography, ultrasound and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) as well as genetic counseling for women who are at high risk for breast cancer and the latest treatment options for cancer and other disorders, such as benign breast tumors and breast pain.
The University of Maryland Breast Center is also one of the few centers to use all-digital mammography exclusively. This provides sharper images with greater contrast and has been shown to be better at detecting cancer in some women while emitting lower levels of radiation, according to recent studies.
“We feel using all-digital mammography provides the best option for breast imaging – both in terms of accuracy and convenience for women who are screened. Digital mammography has been shown to be superior to traditional film mammograms in detecting breast cancer in women with dense breasts and women under the age of 50,” says Deirdre Coll, M.D., director of breast imaging at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Coll will be joining the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology.
“Our multidisciplinary team approach allows us to make the best use of the technology at the Breast Center. We are committed to providing the best possible care to women who come in for routine screening and those needing diagnosis or follow-up for breast cancer,” says Jean Warner, M.D., a breast imaging specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center and an assistant professor of diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Dr. Warner says patients may prefer digital mammography. It takes less time than traditional mammograms since the technologist no longer has to wait for film to develop to confirm the image quality. With digital mammography, the images can be viewed instantly on a computer, which means a faster test.
“Digital mammography also allows the radiologist to get a better look at the X-ray with the ability to optimize the image, such as magnifying it -- the same benefits people see with images from their digital cameras. Digital mammograms are also stored electronically, so they take up less storage space and can be transmitted easily,” adds Dr. Coll.
The Breast Center staff can also scan and digitize a patient’s previous film mammograms, so the radiologists can compare the images in the same digital format. The digital mammography system also features computer-assisted detection software that looks for patterns of very small calcifications, masses or lumps in the breasts, another aid that may help catch cancer earlier.
“Digital mammography’s computers can detect micro-calcifications that form in the breast tissue of about half the women with breast cancer, often before tumors can be seen any other way. The computer cannot diagnose cancer, but it can provide a second pair of eyes, alerting the radiologist where to look more closely,” says Reuben Mezrich, M.D., Ph.D., chief of diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and professor and chairman of diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Approximately 90 percent of women have a normal screening mammogram. Only about five in every 1,000 women screened are found to have cancer, and even in those with cancer, early detection can lead to a cure.
For women who need additional evaluation for breast cancer or other breast issues, the Breast Center offers a comprehensive array of testing, including ultrasound, MRI and the most advanced, minimally invasive imaging-guided biopsy techniques. Women who come to the Breast Center for diagnosis of a breast problem will meet that day with a radiologist who will explain the test results and make recommendations for follow-up care.
The Breast Center team will also be investigating new techniques for diagnosing breast problems. The Breast Center’s ultrasound equipment includes elastography, a non-invasive technique that shows promise in differentiating cancers from benign lesions. Elastography measures the elasticity of tumors, examining how the tumors move and stretch. Cancerous tumors react differently than benign lesions.
“In early tests, elastography has been nearly 100 percent accurate when compared to needle biopsy. For the 80 percent of women whose biopsy comes back as benign, elastography may spare them the pain and inconvenience of the needle biopsy,” says Dr. Warner.
While elastography shows promise, the Breast Center will use it for now in conjunction with needle biopsy and will study its potential benefits for breast cancer diagnosis. In the future, Breast Center researchers will also be studying tomosynthesis, a new technology similar to computed tomography (CT) that can rapidly take multiple pictures of breast tissue and reconstruct three dimensional images.
Women diagnosed with cancer at the Breast Center receive coordinated care from a multidisciplinary team of physicians from the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, which includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and breast surgeons. This collaboration ensures patients will be evaluated by a team of specialists to determine the best treatment and to move quickly to receive the care they need.
“Early detection of breast cancer improves the chances of better outcomes for breast cancer patients and increases cure rates. Working closely with the imaging specialists at the Breast Center, we are able to develop individualized treatment plans, which may include chemotherapy, surgery, radiation or a combination of therapies,” says Katherine Tkaczuk, M.D., director of the Breast Evaluation and Treatment Program at the Greenebaum Cancer Center and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The Breast Center staff also works with women diagnosed with benign breast conditions to find the best treatment options, which could range from careful monitoring to surgery.
For more information on the new Breast Center, go to www.umm.edu/breastcenter.
For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538 or click here to make an appointment.