Safer and more effective, ultrasound breast cancer screening will make mammography obsolete

A few weeks ago, I suggested we change October from Breast Cancer Awareness Month to Mammogram Alternatives Awareness Month.

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined the FDA would lead the way.

But there it was. Just before October arrived, agency officials announced approval of the Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS).

This news didn’t make headlines, but I’m convinced that it’s the beginning of the end for mammography.

However, there’s just one catch…

Think outside the pink

The FDA has approved this excellent new screening, but that doesn’t mean they’ve kicked mammography to the side of the road. In fact, their approval announcement reveals how hard it is for them to let go.

Officially, the ABUS approval is for women with dense breasts. As I’ve mentioned before, ABUS can spot dense breast tumors with much greater accuracy than a mammogram.

But in the first sentence of the FDA approval we find out that ABUS is approved “in combination with a standard mammography.” And this is only for women with dense breast tissue “who have a negative mammogram.”

Okay, FDA! We get it! You want women to keep getting mammograms.

That’s how the whole announcement goes… Mammogram this. Mammogram that. Mammogram, mammogram, mammogram.

The announcement states… “A physician determines if a woman has dense breast tissue with a mammography exam.”

Okay. That’s one way. Or a physician can simply examine your breasts. I promise you, any doctor can tell you in five seconds if your tissue is dense.

Even though this new approval is specifically for women with dense breasts, I’m certain the FDA is aware that ABUS can screen any breast type.

Also, there’s no breast compression, and ZERO radiation exposure. And with a new technique called elastography, ultrasound technicians can accurately spot malignant tumors. That reduces the number of false positives. And that means fewer biopsies.

I think women and their doctors will quickly figure all this out. It will become obvious that effective breast cancer screening requires just one step: ABUS. No mammography needed at all.

Years from now, the FDA will be the last to leave the mammogram party.

Well, you know how it is. Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye. (Especially when you’re a bloated bureaucracy with deep ties to the radiology industry.)

“FDA approves first breast ultrasound imaging system for dense breast tissue” FDA News Release, 9/18/12,

Get urgent health alerts, warnings and insights delivered straight to your inbox