Masking

Dense Breast Tissue Can Limit Sensitivity of Mammogram Screening

Masking occurs when surrounding breast tissue obscures a cancer. The cancer is thus indiscernible mammographically, limiting the sensitivity of the screening test. While masking is not a substantial problem in patients with non-dense breasts, mammographic sensitivity is diminished by up to 10 to 20 percent in dense breasts. This is a major contributor to the drive for an additional screening modality to be used in conjunction with mammography.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been demonstrated to be a useful screening tool in patients at very high risk for breast cancer. Ultrasound and tomosynthesis (3-D mammography) are also being studied as potential supplemental screening modalities, with current results demonstrating an increase in cancer detection using both modalities, but increased false positives for ultrasound compared to decreased false positives for tomosynthesis.

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