X-RAY MAMMOGRAMS ARE AN imperfect means of detecting breast cancer. They can't tell a cancerous lesion from a harmless cyst, they miss up to 40% of the cancers in the denser breasts of younger women, and reading them is as much art as science. So physicians are increasingly supplementing mammograms with ultrasound images of the breast. But while so-called sonograms can tell cysts from lesions, thus preventing unnecessary biopsies, matching and comparing suspicious spots on the ultrasound image with those on the mammogram isn't easy. And two exams cost more.
A Seattle-based startup, NeoVision Corp., has developed a system that does a mammogram and a sonogram in one fell swoop. It replaces the top plate on a mammography machine--the one that compresses the breast--with a plate containing ultrasound gear. A computer workstation displays and analyzes the images from both X-rays and sound. The system promises to reduce the need for biopsies and office visits while providing doctors with more precise information about the location of suspicious lumps. NeoVision hopes to file for Food & Drug Administration approval for its two-in-one machine in April. The company says it's negotiating with mammography companies to bring the technology to market.