Brustkrebs: Diagnostik, Früherkennung & Therapie (Deutsche Version)

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In the European Union there are around 350,000 new cases of breast cancer detected every year. The causes are unclear, but all doctors agree that early detection can greatly improve the chances of beating the disease.

With this in mind, researchers are updating current imaging techniques and developing new ones to improve the accuracy of breast cancer detection. In the Netherlands women aged between fifty and seventy-five are tested for breast cancer every two years.

Here traditional mammograms are being phased out by digital mammograms. The image is still taken in the same way, but with the image in a digital format different properties can be enhanced. The contrast of the mammogram can be changed, for example, so that denser breast tissue can be better analysed. It is also much easy for a radiologist to send a mammogram to other medical staff.

The digital screening system has been introduced across the country. Digital mammograms are now routine for around two million women in the Netherlands. According to Ard den Heeten, director of the Dutch National (Expert and Training) Center for Breast Cancer Screening, there has already been a large increase in successful detections compared to the former analog system.

Digital techniques are becoming very important for early detection. Areas of research at the Fraunhofer Mevis Institute in Bremen, Germany, include medical imagery and computer analysis. They are working on methods of combining the large amount of data from various sources (e.g. mammography or breast magnetic resonance imaging) into a single workstation and create new images to display all relevant information at once.

The Fraunhofer Mevis Institute is a partner of the Haman project that is investigating various types of imagery for the early detection of breast cancer. The methods created in Bremen will be used at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. At the Radboud University Medical Centre much work is done using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Compared with both ultrasound and mammography together about 20% more tumours are detected using MRI. However, breast cancer is also detected by micro-calcifications, which can be seen on a photograph but not using MRI. So in many cases a lot of time is spent sending and receiving data and travelling between other imaging stations. A workstation combining all the required information would increase efficiency and accuracy.

Nico Karssemeijer is a radiological researcher at Radboud University and is developing scanning methods for a more accurate diagnosis. With a wide, rotating scanner he can create 3-dimensional ultrasound images. This technique has important advantages over current methods; it is faster, cheaper than MRI and involves no harmful radiation. A cure for breast cancer is not foreseeable until its causes can be found. Until then the methods for early detection will continue to improve and continue to save lives.

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