Effectiveness of noninvasive diagnostic tests for breast abnormalities depends on woman's history

Research Activities, June 2012, No. 382

For noninvasive imaging tests to be useful for evaluating suspected breast abnormalities, a woman must have been previously identified as having a lower risk for breast cancer. In these cases, using noninvasive imaging in addition to standard examination and diagnostic tests may be useful for determining treatment options. However, usefulness is dependent on a clinician's ability to accurately identify women's risk of breast cancer, and such a precise estimate may not be possible. Those are the conclusions of a recent update of a 2006 Effective Health Care Program review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Breast cancer is one of the most common diseases among women, with approximately 200,000 new cases every year in the United States. Screening using mammography can detect abnormalities in the breast, but further imaging or testing is usually needed to determine whether an abnormality is cancerous. Currently, significant numbers of healthy women undergo surgical biopsies based on these screenings. Noninvasive imaging of the breast may be useful in helping women at lower risk for cancer (less than 12 percent)—based on factors such as age, family history, and mammogram results—avoid unnecessary diagnostic surgeries.

This updated report included expanded evidence on emerging imaging technologies and concluded that diagnostic B-mode grayscale ultrasound and MRI appear to more accurate than PET, scintimammography, or Doppler ultrasound for breast cancer imaging. To access the review, Noninvasive Diagnostic Tests for Breast Abnormalities: Update of a 2006 Review, and other AHRQ products visit Effective Health Care Program .

Current as of June 2012
Internet Citation: Effectiveness of noninvasive diagnostic tests for breast abnormalities depends on woman's history: Research Activities, June 2012, No. 382. June 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jun12/0612RA23.html