Advanced visualization and womens imaging

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Lisa Fratt, Editor
This month’s portal lineup emphasizes the tremendous potential of advanced visualization technologies to improve a wide array of clinical processes. In May, women’s imaging takes center stage.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. And while we celebrate mothers everywhere, breast cancer is in the national spotlight. May 8 brings the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure, an annual celebration of survival and reminder of the devastating impact of breast cancer.

Meanwhile, early data are beginning to demonstrate the deleterious impact of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Forces revision of screening mammography guidelines in 2009. Studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) in Chicago this week revealed that primary care physicians are referring fewer patients age 40 to 49 for screening mammography and fewer women in that age cohort are seeking screening exams.

And in the May issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Canadian researchers issued a call for more sensitive screening modalities and different approaches for early detection of fast-growing tumors.

at Massachusetts Life Sciences Center are taking on the challenge; they secured a $500,000, two-year grant aimed at equipping traditional mammography systems with a low-cost optical imaging system. The technology provides functional information, allowing physicians to compare varying hemoglobin concentrations within healthy, benign and malignant breast tissues.

Despite the hard work of these and other research efforts, I’m fairly certain that screening issues will continue to challenge physicians, women and policymakers for years to come. But once a woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer, scores of clinical and personal challenges present themselves.

This month, we can begin to see the key role of advanced visualization in multiple areas. Consider:

  • Diffuse optical spectroscopic (DOS) tomography may set the stage for personalized chemotherapy by better delineating women who are partial and complete responders to neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
  • Several studies presented at the annual meeting of the ARRS indicate that breast MRI is on a roll. Researchers demonstrated breast MRI’s utility for presurgical evaluation of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), biopsy guidance and axillary lymph node staging.
  • A study published in the May issue of American Journal of Roentgenology explored the role of whole-body breast MRI in axillary lymph node staging and showed that combined local and locoregional staging via whole-body MRI is clinically feasible and can accurately evaluate axillary lymph nodes.
As I anticipate Mother’s Day, I’m feeling positive about developments in women’s imaging.  We don’t yet have a cure for breast cancer, but we do have hope and continued progress, with advanced visualization playing a critical role.

Please take the time to honor your mothers and also let us know how you see advanced visualization benefiting women’s health.

Lisa Fratt, editor