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Molecular Breast Imaging – new breast cancer test

New breast cancer test called Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) – it is highly sensitive and specific radiological exam. Sometimes Molecular Breast Imaging called Miraluma test, sestamibi, scintimammography or breast specific gamma imaging. MBI procedure is simple – first, client (mostly women) receives injection of commonly used radiotracer which has higher rate of uptake in cancerous cells (visible as “hot spots”); second, client is positioned in the system similar to mammography; third, typically 2 images viewed and taken (each one during approximately 10-20 minutes). Usually results could be received immediately.

It should be noted that mammography, tomosynthesis and ultrasound are anatomical imaging tests and sometimes breast density and cancer appear very similar on mammograms. Sometimes mammography screening for women with dense breast tissue cannot identify breast cancer and it is a subject of concern. But MBI is a functional imaging modality and it can highlight metabolic activity in the breast regardless of breast tissue density – actually it is much better diagnostic test for all types of breast cancer including very small tumors in any type of breasts.

According to health experts, about 50% women have dense breasts and on their mammograms the breast tissue shows up white (same color as tumor). In these cases it is very difficult to distinguish if cancer is present or not. During Molecular Breast Imaging injected specific tracer makes cancerous cells visible insuring higher diagnostic possibilities.

“Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) is a powerful tool that finds cancer where a mammogram alone can miss it. MBI is a very effective adjunct screening modality to mammography. It’s easy to use, it’s inexpensive, and it’s safe.”
Dr. Robin Shermis from ProMedica Breast Care.

Molecular Breast Imaging advantages

Molecular Breast Imaging - new breast cancer test

Molecular Breast Imaging – new breast cancer test

  • MBI can provide detailed information and best diagnosis in women with dense breasts;
  • MBI exclude false positive cases;
  • With MBI diagnostic test often breast biopsy is not needed;
  • Compared with other breast cancer diagnostic tests, MBI has higher specificity up to 93%;
  • MBI helps to identify breast cancer when it was missed by other diagnostic tests;
  • Often Molecular Breast Imaging can identify breast cancer even after mammograms were negative.
Mammography specificity is up to 60%; Tomosynthesis – up to 64%; Ultrasound – up to 72%; MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) – up to 85-90%; MBI – up to 93%.

According to scientists, MBI test does expose women to higher doses of radiation than a regular mammogram, but women must decide if that is worth the possibility of an earlier cancer detection.

MBI is still being tested, but it appears to hold promise for detecting breast cancer in women who are at higher-than-average risk for the disease and have dense breasts.

Molecular Breast Imaging

Molecular Breast Imaging

In cases of not dense breasts, mammography remains the screening tool of choice. Some experts believe that for most women mammography is better than MBI at detecting breast tumors when they are small and generally easier to treat.

Some experts recommend MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) instead of MBI (Molecular Breast Imaging) for few reasons including higher radiation and costs. At the same time, it should be noted that MRI is more expensive than MBI and often can return false positive results, leading to unnecessary biopsies.

Molecular Breast Imaging can be a good solution for women with severe claustrophobia, severe obesity (increased body sizes), or other contraindications for MRI.


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