IMAGE: This is a false-color image showing the vascular structure of a healthy human breast. view more
For women over 40, mammography is a necessary yet annoying procedure to endure every year or two. The technique, while valuable for reducing breast cancer deaths, is less than ideal because it exposes patients to X-ray radiation and requires their breasts to be painfully squished between plates. The plates flatten the breast so the X-rays can more easily pass through it and produce a clear image.
Early detection has been shown to increase breast cancer survival rates, but many women avoid having their mammograms taken as often as they should because of the discomfort involved. A 2013 study found that as many as half of women who were avoiding their mammograms cited pain as the reason why.
Mammography also has trouble with breasts, such as those in young women, that are “radiographically dense,” or somewhat opaque to X-rays. And mammography tends to overdiagnose, causing around half of women to receive a false-positive diagnosis at some point in their lives.
Caltech researchers say they have developed something better: a laser-sonic scanner that can find tumors in as little as 15 seconds
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