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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — More than 40 percent of women in the United States have dense breast tissue, which can often mask potential cancers on a mammogram. Now doctors in Southern California are testing a new technology that could help pick up these cancers.
“When my mom was diagnosed, she made us promise to go annually for checkups and we do,” explained Stacey Herkert, who has a family history of breast cancer.
Like many women, the 54-year-old has dense breast tissue, which can make screening for breast cancer challenging.
“Women with dense breast tissue have more white glandular tissue on the mammogram so the background appears white. The problem is breast cancer also appears white on the mammogram, so it’s more difficult to find a small white cancer on a white background,” explained Mary Yamashita, USC Professor of Radiology.
Herkert is taking part in a study at the University of Southern California testing a new three-dimensional ultrasound called SoftVue, to try to help doctors more accurately identify cancer tissue.
The patient lies on their stomach and the breast is placed into a warm water bath. In two to four minutes, the machine scans the entire breast using sound waves.
“There’s no radiation exposure, there’s no compression of the breast,” said Yamashita.
Researchers are enrolling 10-thousand patients for the study at eight sites across the country including South Florida.
They are comparing patients’ mammography results to the SoftVue scans to learn the machine’s effectiveness.
“No exam is 100-percent but we want to be as close to 100-percent as possible,” said Yamashita.
“I’m hoping it will be just another thing I do every year as a precautionary measure to make sure I don’t end up like my mom and end up having breast cancer,” said Herkert.
If the technology is proven effective, it could eventually be used in addition to annual mammograms.
The study will be submitted to the FDA for approval.
Researchers are still looking for participants for the nationwide study.
Click here to find research site locations. In South Florida, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach is taking part in the study.