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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Enhanced Breast MRI

A computer enhanced breast MRI displaying cancerous lesions.
A patient going through a MRI machine.
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Researchers from Florida Atlantic University, the Center for Breast Care at the Women’s Center at Boca Raton Community Hospital (Boca Raton, Fla.), and MeVis, The Center for Diagnostic Systems and Visualization at the University of Breman, Germany, have developed new techniques to aid clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The FDA-approved techniques involve a unique software platform using the mathematical concept of fractals for the analysis and display of serial-time MRI, and were developed at MeVis under the direction of Dr. Heinz-Otto Peitgen who is also a faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at FAU.

“Fractals are large, irregular geometric patterns made up of infinitely smaller, but identical, irregular patterns,” said Peitgen. “Fractal theory provided an appropriate platform upon which to build the software program because the ducts within human breast tissue have fractal properties.”

Breast MRI is a relatively new tool used by physicians to diagnose breast cancer as an adjunct to conventional mammography. Breast MRI displays the behavior of a cancerous lesion in three dimensions and approaches a nearly 100 percent accuracy rate in the detection of invasive cancer. In contrast, mammography provides a two-dimensional view of the breast and surrounding tissue and only detects 80 to 85 percent of tumors. One of the main strengths of MRI is its precise delineation of soft tissue and its ability to image the breast in fine sections dynamically by taking multiple MRI images over time. The percentage of medical centers doing breast MRI is small, but growing.

“Assessment of Suspected Breast Cancer by MRI—A Prospective Clinical Trial Using a Combined Kinetic and Morphologic Analysis,” is a recent study published in The American Journal of Radiology that was spearheaded by Dr. Kathy Schilling, medical director of Imaging and Intervention at the Center for Breast Care at the Women’s Center at Boca Raton Community Hospital. Findings of this study showed that in over 30 percent of patients there were additional tumors in the same breast, and in almost 10 percent of the patients there were tumors in the opposite breast.

“These tumors were not found using mammography or ultrasound,” said Schilling. “We also found a resulting change in the course of treatment in nearly 25 percent of patients undergoing surgery for newly diagnosed breast cancer.” In addition, findings from this study showed that MRI directed biopsies using computational clinical imaging led to definitive conclusions, demonstrating the clinical utility of this unique approach.

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