Q: I recently underwent a needle biopsy of my left breast because of a mass that the doctors thought could be cancer. Do you know if there is a better way to tell if a mass is cancer without having to go through a biopsy procedure? — A.S., Philadelphia
A: The gold standard for the initial diagnosis of a breast abnormality is still the needle biopsy. That said, there is a new technique known as “elastography” that, when added to a breast ultrasound study, can help distinguish between cancer and benign breast lesions.
Elastography improves upon traditional ultrasonography by measuring the compressibility and mechanical properties of a breast mass. Since malignant breast masses tend to be stiffer than surrounding healthy tissue or cysts, a more compressible mass on elastography is less likely to be cancerous.
As part of an ongoing seven-year study conducted at the Charing Cross Hospital Breast Unit in London, 179 patients underwent breast ultrasound and elastography.