Breast cancer study underway at Middlesex Hospital

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) - It appears to be a mammogram machine - but it is not.

It's Molecular Breast Imaging -- the latest screening test for breast cancer.

Middlesex Hospital is the first in New England to offer the dual headed technology. 

It is also the focus of a study here - looking into how it can better diagnose the cancer. 

Specifically - to clear up 'inconclusive' mammograms.

"It is based on a concept that cancer cells need more energy than the normal cells do, so we are able to tag the cancer cells with a radio-tracer," explains Radiologist Dr. Ravi Jain who is the lead researcher.    

He goes on to add, "Checking if the MBI scan can help us decide whether a biopsy is needed or if we can just watch the findings. The promising part is, can you use an MBI, a negative MBI, to not proceed to biopsy." 

A procedure patients like Ellie Gagnon know all too well.   

"I've undergone a couple biopsies actually. It definitely is uncomfortable for sure," she says.

A strong family history and suspicious cysts in her dense breasts led to those biopsies.

But Ellie recently avoided one after undergoing an MBI scan.

"So you know at the end of this test," she says, "They come in with the results, like you know immediately, that you're clear." 

Here's what a MBI negative result looks like as Dr. Jain points to an image, "We don't have any hotspots," compared to a positive one, "Both these pictures show these 2 hotspots in the left breast." 

Which Dr. Jain says required the patient to have a biopsy. 

Breast surgeon Dr. Kristen Zarfos says, "This is an important progress in helping women in the care of their breasts." 

A heightened sense of comfort and relief for patients, she says, "Surgeons never want to miss cancers right? But we don't want to do biopsies that aren't necessary.  Why put a woman through a biopsy, not just a surgical biopsy but a needle biopsy, if it's not necessary."

Study results so far are indeed promising. 

Dr. Jain shares,  "Most of the cases that we have analyzed show that if there's a negative MBI scan, we can watch the findings.  We do not have to proceed with a biopsy."

Middlesex Hospital is part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.  

Dr. Jain says Middlesex has been invited to participate in a national study with Mayo Clinic -- comparing the MBI to 3-D mammograms.

That study could begin next year.  


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