Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - Page 2 News List

New, safer breast cancer screening device introduced

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

The prototype of the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research’s newest PET breast cancer screening equipment is demonstrated at a press conference in Taipei yesterday. The new machine is expected to hit the market in four to five years.

Photo: Tang Chia-ling, Taipei Times

The Institute of Nuclear Energy Research yesterday unveiled a new technique using positron emission tomography (PET) for more precise and comfortable scanning for breast cancer.

The institute said the first locally developed PET instrument solely dedicated to breast cancer screening possessed the advantages of accuracy, comfort and lower cost compared with current screening tools.

The device can be used to screen for preliminary breast cancer as well as to track following treatment for breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally and the leading cause of death among Taiwanese women. The incidence of breast cancer in Taiwan is the second-highest in Asia, said Jan Meei-ling (詹美齡), a researcher at the institute.

CURRENT PROCESSES

Mammography is the currently recognized procedure for screening breast cancer in Taiwan, using low-energy X-rays to examine the breasts, said Tzen Kai-Yuan (曾凱元), director at National Taiwan University Hospital’s Department of Nuclear Medicine. If suspected masses are found, a cell or tissue sample is then taken for a biopsy, he said.

However, Asian women tend to have less fat in their breasts and higher breast density, making it more difficult to effectively screen breast cancer through mammography, which often leads to erroneous diagnoses, Jan said, adding that several women complained about the pain caused by mammography screening and feared having a biopsy.

SAFETY, AFFORDABILITY

Although the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique or a conventional whole-body PET are sometimes used for improving diagnoses for breast cancer during second-phase screening, the cost of an MRI and the radiation dosage of traditional PETs are still relatively high compared with the newly developed breast PET, Jan said. Both tools also have lower accuracy, she said.

The institute said the new PET screening instrument would cost only one-fourth to one-sixth of an MRI and could reduce up to 70 percent of the radiation dose used in a conventional whole-body PET.

Moreover, a research study on breast PET in the US last year showed it could increase screening accuracy by 26 percent.

The institute estimated that more than 30,000 women in Taiwan would benefit from the new technology and avoid an unnecessary biopsy.

Thorough evaluations by the Department of Health and hospitals will be required before the device is employed in hospitals for regular use, Tzen said, adding that he estimated four or five years would be needed before it is adopted.

The institute said it was optimistic about the development of the new instrument, saying that all the components were made by local manufacturers and could have a positive impact on technological development.

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