Breast cancer imaging: A perspective for the next decade

Andrew Karellas, Srinivasan Vedantham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Breast imaging is largely indicated for detection, diagnosis, and clinical management of breast cancer and for evaluation of the integrity of breast implants. In this work, a prospective view of techniques for breast cancer detection and diagnosis is provided based on an assessment of current trends. The potential role of emerging techniques that are under various stages of research and development is also addressed. It appears that the primary imaging tool for breast cancer screening in the next decade will be high-resolution, high-contrast, anatomical x-ray imaging with or without depth information. MRI and ultrasonography will have an increasingly important adjunctive role for imaging high-risk patients and women with dense breasts. Pilot studies with dedicated breast CT have demonstrated high-resolution three-dimensional imaging capabilities, but several technological barriers must be overcome before clinical adoption. Radionuclide based imaging techniques and x-ray imaging with intravenously injected contrast offer substantial potential as a diagnostic tools and for evaluation of suspicious lesions. Developing optical and electromagnetic imaging techniques hold significant potential for physiologic information and they are likely to be of most value when integrated with or adjunctively used with techniques that provide anatomic information. Experimental studies with breast specimens suggest that phase-sensitive x-ray imaging techniques can provide edge enhancement and contrast improvement but more research is needed to evaluate their potential role in clinical breast imaging. From the technological perspective, in addition to improvements within each modality, there is likely to be a trend towards multi-modality systems that combine anatomic with physiologic information. We are also likely to transition from a standardized screening, where all women undergo the same imaging exam (mammography), to selection of a screening modality or modalities based an individual-risk or other classification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4878-4897
Number of pages20
JournalMedical physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2008


  • Breast cancer
  • CT
  • Contrast agents
  • Digital mammography
  • MRI
  • Mammography
  • Optical imaging
  • Tomosynthesis
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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