Gammagrams - A New Test for Breast Cancer

Breast-Specific Gamma Imaging aka the "Gammagram " uses a radioactive injection and then a picture is taken. Tumor cells brighten up quite vividly on the picture because they have a fast metabolism. This test is used when cancer is suspected, not as a screening tool like the annual mammogram. Whether it becomes commonly used will depend upon future studies that show it saves lives and money.

The benefits of a Gammagram is that doctors can easily read them and can make an immediate diagnosis. It also lets women avoid biopsies. When x-rays are too cloudy, the doctor usually says, "Come back in 6 months for a follow up test." No one wants to delay action for six months if it is cancer, so the Gammagram is a great follow up tool.

Ladies will like the fact that a Gammagram doesn't do any squishing (and you know what I mean!). The test takes less than an hour. Patients sit in a chair with their breast put between a plastic shield and a camera device.

Gammagrams are preferred over mammograms for women with dense breasts, breast implants, previous breast surgeries or lobular breast cancer. They can be used as a follow up if a lump is found or if there is an unusual mammogram result. Right now studies are ongoing to compare Gammagrams to MRI's and positron-emission tomography (PET) scans.

It's an expensive machine for the provider to purchase but all doctors really prefer its fast and easy to read results. Most insurance plans pay for the test.

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