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Pill may be more Accurate than Mammograms in Screening for Breast Cancer


Aging is an Increased Risk for Breast Cancer

Aging is an increased risk for breast cancer and the older a woman gets, the greater is the risk of contracting breast cancer. Women age 70 and over are at the highest risk.

Mammography Makes Errors

It is imperative for women to have regular screening to detect early breast cancer, but mammography makes errors and it is estimated that one in three of the women who are treated for breast cancer based on mammograms are treated unnecessarily, while some women with active breast cancer are missed on mammograms and this leads to fatalities.

Danish Study on Mammograms Showed Overdiagnosis

A Danish study of thousands of women ages 35-84 who were followed from 1980-2010 showed that a third of the abnormal findings detected by mammograms were not potentially life threatening, but led to over diagnosis and unnecessary tests and treatments. Not only do the mammograms sometimes fail to detect active aggressive breast cancer in some women, but mammograms cannot show which tumors are progressing quickly and which tumors are so slow-growing that there is no point in treating them, although they should be watched. 

Women Avoid Mammograms to Avoid Pain and out of a Fear of Radiation

Also, many women avoid mammograms because the compression is painful and/or because they are also afraid of the radiation, since radiation has been proven to be a risk for causing cancers. 

Unnecessary Treatments Affect the Quality of Life

The unnecessary treatment that some women have undergone based on false positives from mammograms have even included total mastectomies (removal of both breasts). Also, some of the diagnostic procedures like biopsies have caused infections and other health problems. Some women had unnecessary radiation and chemotherapy, which are dangerous treatments that can produce very serious side effects. This has led to a very bad quality of life in many women, with tremendous anxiety and emotional stress.

False Positives and Overdiagnosis very Expensive

Diagnostic errors in detecting breast cancer are also very expensive, as it is estimated that about four billion dollars are spent every year on false positives and over diagnosis.

Oral administration of a Molecular Imaging Agent

A Pill Containing a Dye that responds to Infrared Light Successful in Mice

In light of this, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a non-invasive screening method using a molecular imaging agent, which is a pill that contains a dye that will light up under infrared fluorescence light to expose malignant breast tumors. Testing on mice was successful. When the mice with breast cancer had swallowed this pill the infrared light caused the malignant breast tumors to light up. Unlike mammograms, infrared light can penetrate the breast without the dangers of ionizing radiation and without the pain and discomfort of compression.

Molecular Imaging Agents in Oral Pills are Safer than IV or Injection

Taking a pill with this dye by mouth is far safer than getting it by intra-venous (IV) or injection, which in some people can cause a bad allergic reaction that can even lead to anaphylactic shock, which if not immediately treated ends in death. In fact, an oral pill is less invasive than a blood test.

Pill Fluorescent Treatment Less Expensive

Also, a pill that can simply be swallowed will cost less than IV Imaging and is also much less expensive than imaging by MRI, so it is more suitable to be used for mass screenings to accurately diagnose breast cancer.


It is to be hoped that further testing and research will produce a similar pill containing a dye that can be used successfully among humans to safely screen and more accurately diagnose cancerous tumors in the breast. Also, since swallowing a pill and getting breasts examined under infrared light is an easier and safer process without pain and radiation like in mammograms, the hope is that women who are now afraid to do mammograms will be willing to be screened with this molecular imaging pill. Moreover, the main advantage to this molecular imaging is that it is far more accurate in diagnosing malignant breast tumors than mammograms and will not lead to false positives, over diagnosis and missing aggressive malignant tumors.




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