This PEM image shows two cancerous lesions. The one on the right was depicted by conventional mammography, but the one on the left was only identified by the PEM unit. Image courtesy: Eric Rosen, Duke University Medical Center
A study published in the February issue of the journal Radiology shows that a positron emission mammography (PEM) device designed and built by Jefferson Lab scientists is capable of imaging breast cancer tumors. In the pilot study, conducted by Duke University Medical Center researchers, the unit imaged 18 malignant tumors in 23 patients receiving additional screening due to suspicious mammograms.
For many women, regular mammograms allow physicians to spot breast cancer tumors as dense lumps in the breast. But mammography often fails in women who have dense breast tissue due, for instance, to genetics or scarring. According to Eric Rosen, M.D., a Duke University Medical Center physician and lead author on the study, "In women with dense breasts, it’s very hard to pick out even large anatomic abnormalities."
Stan Majewski, Jefferson Lab Detector Group Leader and principal investigator on the instrumentation part of the project, led the team that designed and built the PEM unit. He says PEM imaging works differently than mammography. It reveals breast tissue that is showing higher metabolism than other areas. "The imager we built is a functional imager. That is, it indicates something about physiology, which can be different from anatomy," he says.
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