Are Mammograms A Thing of The Past? 3D Ultrasound Could Be The Answer

If I said that I was very excited to be going for a Breast Scan, you would probably think me mad. We all know early detection is key but the screening scans leave a lot to be desired and many of us put off or don’t go for regular check ups.

MаmmоgrаmѕApart from the obvious reluctance most of us feel to having ones breasts man handled by another, there is the pain involved with the squashing and tugging required to get your breast pinned down between those ghastly & cold metal plates.

Then there is the added worry of all the radiation being fired through your body every 12 months… NOT GOOD!

Let’s face it, Mammograms suck!

Even if like me, you refuse mammograms and get sent for MRI’s by your panic-stricken cancer doctors, this too is not a walk in the park. Perhaps there is no squashing or radiation but there is still man handling as your breast are arranged to dangle through the special platform. You will probably have an intravenous port inserted, so they can pump a contrast medium through your veins (never a pleasant thing for those of us who’ve had chemo). Then you are moved slowly into the MRI tube FACE DOWN! As you are laying on a raised platform, you are no longer at the widest point of the tunnel and as the bed slides slowly into the tube, your shoulders and arms are pinned to your sides and you now know, how a sardine in a can feels. To not feel some claustrophobia is almost impossible, even for me and I am an old hand at long MRI’s.

So Breast MRI’s, not very pleasant either!

I have long been talking of the benefits of ultrasound and so when at long last a woman doctor invented and automatic 3D ultrasound machine, which removes the human error that before made this test difficult to implement, I was ecstatic!

The A.B.U.S. (Automated Breast Ultrasound) can scan your entire breast in minutes. It is comfortable, painless, has no dangerous radiation or side effects and more accurate than mammograms.

These machines have now been approved by many countries, at present as an adjunct Mammograms and especially for women with dense breast tissue, for whom mammograms are notoriously useless. My own marble sized lump, which could be seen and felt easily, did not show even a diagnostic mammogram, which are more detailed than screening mammograms.

For around %40 of women, and up to as much as %70 of Asian women, this is a huge problem.

So when I then found Canada was ahead of the curve and already had a Toronto based clinic (details below) offering this type of scan. I book myself an appointment. ( In Canada a prescription is not required, you can just call them up and book your time).

Right from the every fist email contact, the service was exceptional. The downtown office is easy to locate and has car parking under the building. As you exit the elevator on the ground level the clinic is right there. The decor is warm and inviting, no bright lights & comfortable sofa’s instead of plastic chairs. I was greeted with a warm smile from a receptionist who knew my name and was expecting me. There are the usual forms to fill out but no sooner hand I finished, the technician was ready for me.

The ultrasound room itself also had no harsh lights and was welcoming, as was the technician who showed me the machine and checked the questionnaire I had completed. This done, I was asked to strip to the waste and don a pink, medical garment.

I was asked if I minded a manual exam of my breast and this was done.

When the physical exam was owner, I was asked to turn slightly on to my side and a back support was placed behind me, to keep me comfortable. A white almost icing like substance was then spread all over one breast. This made me laugh as the implement used to do this was indeed a rubber spatula, which actually proved to be very good, although I don’t think I will ever think of icing a cake without smile from now on.

The square head of machine is then lowered gently onto the breast. The underside has  a soft, pliable surface so nothing cold or hard and only very slight pressure is felt. Then the scanner, which is inside the membrane of the unit, rolls over the breast as if crosses from left to right. A bit more white gel/icing is applied, a slightly different angle and the process repeats. Change sides, more white stuff and that’s it… I am done.

When dressed, I am also shown several of the images and was amazed at how detailed and clear the are. Clearly no diagnosis is given there and then, as the scans are sent to a radiologists to be evaluated but it was really nice to be treated like an adult and allowed to look at your own scans. I very much appreciated this. 30 minutes after walking into the clinic, I am on my way out again. 2 days later, I receive my report via email (which by the way, shows no signs of cancer, Yay).

It is still early days for this type of screening but with proven results far exceeding the accuracy of mammograms and the fact it does not harm in any way shape or from the patient, I can’t see how this is not the way forward for screening scans. I also believe that this type of scans is being tested for use with Testicular cancer along with bone density scans.

While not covered by social health care systems as yet, I am sure it is just a matter of time. In the meantime some insurance policies will pay out, if not, it’s a tax deductible expense.