Cape Town – Women with dense breast tissue that makes it difficult to detect small cancers, can now have these lesions noticed much earlier – thanks to a new ultrasound technology that picks up even the tiniest malignancies.
The Automated Breast Volume Scanner System (ABVS) is so sophisticated that breast cancer experts are already calling it a game-changer in the screening of the disease.
Professor Justus Apffelstaedt, a Cape Town surgeon who specialises in breast cancer and is also head of Breast Clinic at Tygerberg Hospital, said while mammographic screening remained the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer, ultrasound was often conducted as an additional investigation, especially on patients with dense breasts.
Apffelstaedt uses the only such scanner in the country in private healthcare practice.
He said while the mammogram technology detected many breast cancers, the scanner – a relatively new technology in South Africa – had been shown to significantly improve the detection rate for small cancers in dense breast.
About 90 percent of patients that used mammograms had dense breasts, making it difficult for medics to analyse results.
“On a mammogram, dense tissue looks white. Since masses or lumps also appear white on a mammogram, a suspicious lump may be masked by the dense breast tissue. It is for this reason that there is a global movement towards utilising ABVS technology in addition to mammography to ensure the best possibility of early detection.”