GE Ends the Debate on Mammograms


There has been a lot of debate recently over the effectiveness of mammograms to detect breast cancer.

A paper in the Nov. 22, 2012, New England Journal of Medicine by Drs. Archie Bleyer and Gilbert Welch concluded that mammography screening was leading to substantial “over diagnosis”.

During the debate over  the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which reports to Congress, dropped its recommendation for mammography screening for women in their 40s and instead recommended screening starting at age 50. Citing that screening in the 40s the “harms” associated with mammography out weighed the benefits. The main “harm,” as the task force saw it, was for a woman to be recalled after a screening mammogram for additional evaluation. Fortunately President Obama overturned the Task Force’s recommendation.

The debate seems to center around the efficacy of mammograms and the added cost of unneeded follow up tests and procedures.

In relation to that argument, here are some stats:

Screening began in the U.S. in the mid-1980s. In 1990 the mortality rate from breast cancer—unchanged for 50 years—began a steady decline. Today more than 30% fewer women die each year from breast cancer than would have died had the pre-1990 death rate continued. That’s about 15,000-20,000 lives saved annually, in large part due to screening. Now granted improved therapies had a large part to do with this, but you can’t argue the benefit to diagnosing cancer early in its development.

Today GE Healthcare ended this debate when they announced FDA approval and the U.S. launch of their new breast imaging technology, the Invenia™ ABUS, proven to help clinicians find 35.7% more cancers in women with dense breasts than mammograms alone1.  In keeping with a strong commitment to furthering the fight against breast cancer, GE Healthcare is excited to unveil the first Invenia ABUS installations with Fairfax Radiological Consultants just outside of Washington, D.C., and Phelps Memorial Hospital in Westchester, NY, whose healthcare providers are now able to offer women with dense breast tissue an efficient, comfortable and non-ionizing screening solution.

Watch the video:

“A growing body of research suggests the importance of screening ultrasound for women with dense breast tissue—that’s about 40% of women,” said breast imaging specialist Elise L. Berman, M.D., of Fairfax Radiological Consultants. “Mammography is still considered the gold standard for breast cancer screening but is less sensitive in women who have dense breast tissue. Supplementing the mammogram with automated breast ultrasound screenings should help us find tumors that cannot be seen on the mammogram and at an earlier stage than would have otherwise been found. We are optimistic that this more personalized screening approach can help us save more women’s lives.”

The Invenia ABUS enhances the patient experience by using 3D ultrasound technology to comfortably and quickly image women with dense breast tissue in approximately 15 minutes with new features that conform to a woman’s body and provide more enhanced images. This launch comes at a critical time when there is growing awareness of the increased risk of cancer for women with high breast density. The more dense breast tissue a woman has, the higher her risk of developing breast cancer2 – oftentimes up to 4-6 times greater risk than women who do not have dense breast tissue3.

“Phelps Memorial Hospital Center prides itself on keeping up with cutting-edge technologies and we are very excited for our hospital and community to integrate this new technology into our mammography program,” noted Senior Administrative Director of Ancillary Services at Phelps Memorial Hospital, Michael Glennon. “This highly sophisticated ABUS is more efficient than the traditional ultrasound exam and will significantly enhance our diagnostic capabilities and potentially improve outcomes for our patients.”

Recognizing that breast cancer screenings can be an emotionally stressful experience for the patient, GE Healthcare has designed the Invenia ABUS with the patented Reverse Curve™ transducer to conform to a woman’s anatomy, for better comfort and image performance. Further, the system uses Compression Assist, a feature which applies light levels of compression automatically to the breast for increased ease and image reproducibility. Following on the initial Fairfax and Westchester launches, GE plans to roll out the Invenia ABUS nationwide in 2014, with health providers across the country.

“We are excited about launching our most innovative and intuitive ABUS system yet, the Invenia ABUS, and are proud to make our first installs at the renowned facilities at Fairfax Radiological Consultants and Phelps Memorial,” said Anders Wold, president and CEO of GE’s ultrasound business. “As part of our ongoing commitment to improving women’s health, GE Healthcare is focused on providing timely and meaningful technological innovations spanning the care continuum, including those for the screening of patients with dense breasts.”