More than 40 percent of women in the United States have dense breast tissue which can often mask potential cancers on a mammogram. Doctors are now testing new technology that may help pick up these cancers.
Stacey Herkert has a family history of breast cancer so she makes sure to get a mammogram every year.
"When my mom was diagnosed, she made us promise to go annually for checkups and we do," Stacey said.
Like many women, the 54-year-old has dense breast tissue which can make screening for breast cancer challenging.
According to Mary Yamashita, Professor of Radiology at USC ,"Women with dense breast tissue have more white glandular tissue on the mammogram so the background appears white. The problem is breast cancer also appears white. "
Stacey is taking part in a study at the University of Southern California testing a new three-dimensional ultrasound, to see if it can help doctors more accurately identify cancer tissue. The patient lies on her stomach and the breast is placed into a warm water bath. In two to four minutes, the machine scans the entire breast using sound waves.
Yamashita said, "There's no radiation exposure, there's no compression of the breast."
Researchers are comparing patients' mammography results to these scans to learn the machine's effectiveness. If the technology is proven to be effective, it could eventually be used in addition to annual mammograms.
Researchers are enrolling 10,000 patients for the study at seven sites across the country, including one in Pittsburgh.