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Studies by scientists at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University in Michigan have discovered a correlation between the speed of ultrasound transmitted through breast tissue and the density of that tissue.  This is potentially important because high amounts of dense breast tissue are associated with increased breast cancer risk. Using ultrasound avoids the use of ionizing x-rays used in typical mammography.

The researchers are part of a team that has been developing a new form of ultrasound tomography, one in which the patient is in the prone position, with a breast projecting down into a bath of water.  The breast is surrounded by a ring-shaped transducer for sending sound waves into the breast from all sides.  The resulting ultrasound detection captures both reflected and transmitted sound waves.  From this, an ultrasound percent density (USPD)--thought to be a good proxy for mammographic density--can be determined. 

The method has been tried out in a clinical trial with a cohort of 100 patients and shows that USPD corresponds well with both qualitative and quantitative mammographic breast density measures.  One of the scientists, Carri Glide (glidec@karmanos.org), says that they hope to gain FDA approval and introduce the device into general use.  Further information about the device can be found at www.karmanos.org/cure.  [Thursday, July 26, 2007, Papers at 2:30 PM (TH-D-M100J-6), 5 PM (TH-E-L100J-6), and 5:12 PM (TH-E-L100J-7).]