Pain-free tech helps catch breast cancer early

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Fear of the unknown can sometimes keep women from getting their screening mammogram -- sometimes it's fear of hurt that will keep them away.

"And then, they have a mammogram and then they're pleasantly surprised," said Medical Director of the UT Breast Center, Garnetta Morin-Ducote, MD. "They're like, 'It wasn't that bad.' I think the idea that it is painful is not correct positioning. Picking the mammogram at the time of the month when your breasts are the least tender, I think is real important."

Medical professionals said mammograms are the best tool to catch breast cancer early. However, new technologies can diagnose breast cancer once an initial mammogram raises a question.

One new tool has been used at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, where professionals are trying out a type of cone beam imaging machine.

"We can rotate the breast around," Dr. Kamilia Kozlowski, founder of the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, explained. "We have multiple slices from three different dimensions. And the wonderful thing about it is there is no compression of the breast."

Other options that don't use compression include ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. However, Dr. Morin-Ducote said these technologies shouldn't take the place of initial screening mammograms.

"All of these technologies are being developed or looked at because it seems that we want to have an alternative to the mammogram because of the concerns about compression and some concerns about radiation. But you have to have the technology that shows it is better than a mammography and shows that it is more efficacious than mammography -- and those studies aren't done yet," Dr. Mourin-Ducote explained.

Experts said talking with your doctor can give you the best idea how to handle early detection, and which tools might be the best for you.

"Well, it's very important, because if we can find breast cancer early, we can save their lives," Dr. Kozlowski said.

For information about getting a breast cancer screening for yourself or someone you know, call the National Cancer Institute at 800-422-6237, or call the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Cancer Hotline for help if you cannot afford screenings at 877-969-6636.