It’s no secret the biggest risk factor for breast cancer is being female.
For every eight women in the United States, one will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. That statistic means breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women after some skin cancer types.
In fact, breast cancer is so prevalent in modern society it’s likely you personally know someone who has been recently diagnosed with it, survived it, or died from it.
Today there are two new, potentially good news findings in breast cancer research. One involves the way breast cancer is diagnosed. The other offers insight into preventing it.
’A Better Diagnostic Tool’
Most breast cancer is found using X-ray mammography. It’s currently the only accepted routine screening method for early detection of breast cancer. While it does a pretty good job at catching most breast cancer in its earliest stage, it’s not a perfect test.
Microscopic areas of calcium accumulating inside the breast tissue is typically associated with tumor formation. But a mammogram can’t always accurately distinguish if these “microcalcifications” are harmless noncancerous lesions or the first signal that cancer is present.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a pre-invasive form of breast cancer, is the most common cancer type associated with microcalcifications, states BreastCancer.org.
Ishan Barman, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said that most women with microcalcifications need to undergo a stereotactic core needle biopsy — a procedure where a small amount of breast tissue is retrieved for pathologic analysis — to determine if the microcalcifications are benign or malignant lesions.
But for 15 to 25 percent of women, the biopsies deliver a false-negative (non-conclusive or wrong) result, requiring them to undergo more invasive testing, often a surgical biopsy, according to Barman.
Barman and his colleagues believe that a newly developed, single-step Raman spectroscopy algorithm applied during the core biopsy shows potential in accurately detecting and diagnosing microcalcifications in real-time.