The increased awareness of breast cancer is an indication that public health awareness campaigns are indeed educating the masses on the risks and early detection and treatment options for the disease. However, it is unfortunate that some messages do not receive adequate attention.
One of these messages is that sometimes, an ultrasound can be more effective than a mammogram in detecting breast cancer. This is especially true for women under the ages of 35-40 who generally have dense breast tissue. In this case, mammograms, which are considered screening tools, are unable to accurately detect lumps in breast tissue due to the density of the tissue.
Usually, one has a breast ultrasound taken if the mammogram results revealed an unusual or suspicious lump in the breast tissue. In this case, a breast ultrasound is considered a diagnostic tool or supplemental test. However, this process is usually bypassed for women under the ages of 35-40 who may instead have an ultrasound done as a first diagnostic imaging method since it may provide more accurate results than a mammogram.
Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of ultrasounds in detecting breast cancer in young women where mammograms have failed. However, there is still debate on whether ultrasounds can be used as a standalone test or if they are to be supplemented with a breast MRI.
Individuals at an increased risk of developing breast cancer must speak to their OB-GYN on which tests they should consider as these guidelines don’t apply to them.
Written by Eleanor Ndaiga
Lehman C D et al. Accuracy and value of Breast Ultrasound for Primary Imaging Evaluation of Symptomatic Women 30-39 years of Age. AJR Am J Roentgenol [Internet]. 2012 Nov [cited 2017 Nov 25]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23096195
Devolli D E, Manxhuka K S, Ymeri H, Kutllovci A. Comparative Accuracy of Mammography and Ultrasound in Women with Breast Symptoms According to Age and Breast Density. Bosn J Basic Med Sci [Internet]. 2009 May [cited 2017 Nov 26]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19485945
Gartlehner G et al. Mammography in combination with breast ultrasonography versus mammography for breast cancer screening in women at average risk. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2013 April [cited 2017 Nov 27]. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD009632.pub2/full