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Mammograms Not Only Weapon Against Breast Cancer

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RALEIGH, N.C. — While an annual exam is considered the most reliable method for early breast cancer detection in women older than 40, some women are turning to another tool to catch possible tumors even earlier.

Suzie Peterson beat colon cancer 20 years ago and survived breast cancer seven years ago. Now, she is getting an MRI exam at Rex Hospital to make sure breast tumors are not coming back.

"Because of my history of cancer, thought it would be a test to see if there could be another one," Peterson said.

A recent study found MRI exams detected nearly twice as many cancers than mammograms could. Still, it is only recommended for patients at high risk of breast cancer either because they have had it before or they have a strong family history.

"It can pick up small things, so it's very sensitive but it also picks up things that aren't necessarily cancerous," said Dr. Laura Thomas, a radiologist at Rex Healthcare.

Not all MRI machines have the necessary coils to perform breast exams. In the past, specially equipped MRIs were limited to research universities. More hospitals are now adding the new technology and staff to offer the service.

"Well, certainly the technology has improved and we're able to get better images and have more expertise in evaluating them," Thomas said.

The exam showed Peterson is still cancer free. She is not afraid to hear bad news. She just believes in hearing any news early.

"The sooner anybody finds it, if they do have cancer, that they can continue living," Peterson said.

Researchers believe mammography is still the best way to detect breast cancer for most women.


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