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January 16,  2002

Breast Cancer Detection Aided by New Technology Installed at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Health System


 (SafetyAlerts) - Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Health System has announced the availability of a promising new technology called computer aided detection, or CAD, that offers an added benefit to mammography in the detection of early breast cancer. Similar to a "spellchecker," CAD analyzes films from screening mammography to identify areas that contain the slightest abnormal or suspicious features and marks them for a radiologist to review. Magee is the first facility in western Pennsylvania to introduce this innovative technology to its breast imaging services.

"CAD has great potential because it gives radiologists a second pair of highly trained eyes. It provides us with additional information about images that have characteristics generally accepted to be associated with breast cancer," said Jules Sumkin, D.O., professor of radiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and chief of radiology, Magee-Womens Hospital. "With CAD, every woman who receives a screening mammogram at a Magee facility will now benefit from the `second look.'

"While the majority of breast cancers will be detected by mammography, some may be missed due to differences in the appearance of breast tissue, breast cancer features and tumor growth rates," added Dr. Sumkin. "CAD can help by identifying areas that may not have been initially spotted by the radiologist, which could potentially lead to the earlier detection of a cancer."

Using a software program specifically designed to identify clusters of bright spots that are suggestive of microcalcifications and patterns suggestive of tissue masses or distortions, CAD is a technology used after a mammographic film has been generated. The films are loaded into the CAD computer system and processed to identify and mark regions that have characteristics of cancer. The display files are transmitted and stored in a file server in the mammography viewer for a radiologist to review. The radiologist examines the CAD output and the original mammogram to make his or her final interpretation.

"We are encouraged by initial results from national studies that have demonstrated an improvement in the proportion of cancers detected at an early stage, which is an added benefit to using CAD as a companion technology to mammography," commented Dr. Sumkin.

Dr. Sumkin pointed out that while these results are encouraging, CAD is designed as a companion to mammography screening, not as a replacement for it. "CAD requires the guidance of a knowledgeable interpreter and must be used in conjunction with mammography screening to be effective," said Dr. Sumkin.

Magee uses a CAD system called the ImageChecker developed by R2 Technology Inc., based in Los Altos, Calif. R2 Technology was the first commercial company in the United States to obtain FDA clearance for CAD applications for mammography. Researchers at Magee are currently examining the potential benefits and limitations of this system with a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.

CAD and other state-of-the-art breast imaging services, including digital mammography, offered at Magee are a component of the Magee-Womens Hospital and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) Breast Program. Magee performs 67,000 breast imaging procedures each year, of which 40,000 are screening mammograms. For further information about the Magee/UPCI Breast Program, please visit or call (412) 647-4747.

Source: PRNewswire.

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