By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter
St. Louis (KSDK) - Mammograms are considered the gold-standard for detecting breast cancer.
But should women also get a breast ultrasound?
It's the subject of tonight's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer Segment.
"Regarding the use of breast ultrasound, it's a complex issue," said Dr. Kate Appleton with the Siteman Cancer Center.
If you've ever had a lump or abnormality found on a mammogram, you may have had one. Sound waves are used to get an image of internal structures of the breast. It's used every day in patients who've had something unusual detected.
"But more recently a study came out talking about the utility of screening breast ultrasound, so looking for breast cancer in women who don't have any symptoms," said Dr. Appleton.
And Dr. Appleton says the risk of giving routine ultrasound exams to those women is clear: there's no medical evidence showing a benefit in healthy women. The tests can lead to more false positives, and potentially biopsies of things that aren't cancer.
"I think the most important thing for women to know is that breast ultrasound is absolutely not a replacement for a mammogram. You can't trade one for the other," said Dr. Appleton.
Dr. Appleton says the data is also clear for women at high risk for breast cancer. They should skip an ultrasound, and go for yet another type of imaging: an MRI.
"This study showed that MRI in conjunction with mammogram was the best combination and that screening ultrasound does not add anything to those women," said Dr. Appleton.