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Published on October 31, 2011

Mercy Women’s Center offers new technology to detect breast cancer

Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) machine at Mercy Medical CenterA new, high-tech tool used to detect breast cancer early and increase the chance of saving lives is now available at Mercy Women’s Center in Cedar Rapids.  Mercy is the first hospital in Iowa and one of just 15 nationwide to offer low-dose Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI).



Beginning Fri., Oct. 28, Mercy Women's Center is offering the LumaGem MBI system. It is the first FDA-cleared technology used for breast imaging as a complement to mammography. MBI identifies tumors in dense breast tissue that are often not visible with X-ray based analog or digital mammography.

"This new technology is not a screening tool, but a diagnostic one," said Dr. Laura Hemann, Medical Director of Mercy Women’s Center. "MBI complements mammograms and other breast imaging tests. High-risk women with very dense breast tissue will benefit most from MBI."

MBI overcomes a known shortcoming of X-ray mammography. The X-ray breast image is incapable of differentiating between tumors and dense breast tissue. On a mammogram, both appear white. This can make it challenging for the radiologist to interpret the image and find potential breast disease. MBI technology is not X-ray based and, therefore, has no difficulty in obtaining an image in dense breast tissue.

Here’s how it works: With MBI, the patient is given an injection in the arm of a short-lived radioactive isotope, the same used in cardiac imaging. This material accumulates in tumor cells more than it does in normal cells. Using a dual-head digital imaging system, tumors then show up as hot spots (white) on the resulting image. MBI gives functional information; the mammogram only gives anatomic information. In a recent Mayo Clinic study comparing MBI with mammography, MBI detected seven times as many cancers in women with dense breast tissue and an increased risk of breast cancer.

MBI also demonstrated fewer false positives (meaning the results appear abnormal, but are noncancerous) than Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which is much more expensive than Molecular Breast Imaging.

The MBI scan is quick and easy. Because each scan takes only minutes, the entire procedure can be completed in approximately 45 minutes and the images are immediately available for the physician’s interpretation. Most patients find the exam to be more comfortable than mammography as MBI requires only light compression. Patients are seated during the procedure and can watch television or an educational video.