, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 123-130
Date: 13 Dec 2012

The current status of positron emission mammography in breast cancer diagnosis

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Mammography is currently the standard breast cancer screening procedure, even though it is constrained by low specificity in the detection of malignancy and low sensitivity in women with dense breast tissue. Modern imaging modalities, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have been developed in an effort to replace or complement mammography, because the early detection of breast cancer is critical for efficient treatment and long-term survival of patients. Nuclear medicine imaging technology has been introduced in the field of oncology with the development of positron emission tomography (PET), positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) and, ultimately, positron emission mammography (PEM). PET offers the advantage of precise diagnosis, by measuring metabolism with the use of a radiotracer and identifying changes at the cellular level. PET/CT imaging allows for a more accurate assessment by merging the anatomic localization to the functional image. However, both techniques have not yet been established as diagnostic tools in early breast cancer detection, primarily because of low sensitivity, especially for sub-centimeter and low-grade tumors. PEM, a breast-specific device with increased spatial resolution, has been developed in order to overcome these limitations. It has demonstrated higher detectability than PET/CT and comparable or better sensitivity than MRI. The ability to target the lesions visible in PEM with PEM-guided breast biopsy systems adds to its usability in the early diagnosis of breast cancer. The results from recent studies summarized in this review indicate that PEM may prove to be a useful first-line diagnostic tool, although further evaluation and improvement are required.