New breast cancer detection soon offered at Mayo Clinic in La Crosse

Technology more powerful than mammogram

A new screening tool in the fight against breast cancer will soon be available to patients in one area clinic, and doctors are optimistic it could change how some patients are diagnosed with the disease.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse will soon be offering molecular breast imaging when trying to detect breast cancer.

Instead of using X-rays, like a traditional mammogram, molecular breast imaging uses gamma rays to identify tumors, which researchers are saying could change the way we detect the disease.

For years, traditional mammograms have been the staple when detecting breast cancer.

“The real question is, could we have detected this cancer last year, or the year before, when we would have had a much better chance at survival?” said Dr. Deborah Rhodes, developer of the new technology.

That question is what Rhodes has been working on for years.

“We began working on this about 15 years ago, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, using a new gamma detector that was being developed for imaging the heart,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes and her team realized that technology could be used for something else.

“Myself and a team of physicists realized that we could adapt this detector for imaging in the breast,” Rhodes said.

That technology is now called Molecular Breast Imagining or MBI, which will now be offered at the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, especially for women with dense breast tissue.

“(It) is a gamma detector device that is designed to detect breast cancers that are otherwise obscured on an X-ray, which is a mammogram,” Rhodes said.

“We can impact a great number of people in our area,” said Tim Johnson, vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System in the southwest region of Wisconsin.

“What we discovered was that the molecular breast imagining device could detect over three times more cancers than the mammogram could detect in women who have dense breast tissue,” Rhodes said.

Officials at the Mayo Health System in La Crosse are excited to bring that technology here.

“Breast cancer affects woman at all ages and all places, all locations,” Johnson said.

“I think it will be a great option for the community,” Rhodes said.

As we told you last week, the Mayo Clinic Health System is also looking for participants in a nationwide study they are participating in.

It involves looking at blood testing that could also help detect early breast cancer.

Officials said molecular breast imaging should begin at the Mayo Health Clinic this fall.

The test is usually covered by insurance, but patients should check with their policy before considering the procedure.