, or women who suspect they
have breast cancer, the time
between detecting a lump and
diagnosis can be filled with anguish.
Dr. Lawrence Davis, chief of nu-
clear medicine at Harper Hos-
"I'm not a woman," he says
"but I can only imagine what it
must be like. Waiting. Wondering. Is
it cancer? Am I going to die?"
Dr. Davis is directing part of a
North American study to evaluate a
new breast-cancer detection test. The
test is aimed at distinguishing be-
tween cancerous and benign abnormalities
in the breast. If proven successful, it could
cut from days to minutes the time needed
to determine if a lump is malignant or be-
Harper Hospital is one of about 50 sites
in the United States and Canada embark-
ing on the project, sponsored by DuPont
Radiopharmaceutical, a division of the
DuPont-Merck Pharmaceutical Company.
The company says a preliminary study, con-
ducted independently by a doctor in Cali-
fornia, indicated a high success rate.
"At present, there is no way of knowing
for certain if the breast abnormality is ma-
lignant or benign until a biopsy is per-
formed," Dr. Davis says.
When a woman detects a lump in her
breast — either through a self-examination
or mammogram — the next step is to get
RUTH LITTMANN STAFF WRITER
a biopsy, which determines whether or not
the lump is cancerous.
Biopsies require incisions into the breast
tissue. They can be painful and scar, and several years to diagnose heart disease, is
2. She must have a lump in her breast or
they can cost between $1,500 and $3,000. called Sestamibi. It involves first injecting abnormal mammogram results.
In the United States, about 700,000 inci- a small amount of an FDA-approved, ra-
3. She must have seen a surgeon who will
sional biopsies take place each year.
dioactive agent into the arm of a woman do a biopsy.
Only 25 percent of incisional biopsies with a breast abnormality.
4. The mammogram and biopsy should
come back positive for cancer. The remain-
The second step utilizes a special "gam- be done at Harper Hospital so doctors can
ma" camera to track the movement of that coordinate the results with the Sestamibi
radioactive agent. Doctors use the camera study.
to take pictures from the front and sides
5. She must sign a consent form.
of the breast. The photographic images are
There is no charge for participating in the
transmitted onto a computer screen.
study, but women (or insurance companies)
If a lump is malignant, the screen will re- must cover the costs of mammogram and
veal a "hot spot" or darkened area in the biopsies.
breast where the radioactive agent has con-
Dr. Davis says there are no side effects
centrated. Since the high metabolic rates of of the Sestamibi test, although a few women
malignancies tend to attract radioactive get a slight metallic taste in their mouths.
agents, doctors could conclude from the hot
Participants will not deviate from tra-
spot that cancer is likely.
ditional care procedures, he says. Until the
However, if no hot spot shows up, chances Sestamibi technique is proven effective, all
are the woman does not have the disease.
women will receive biopsies because, so far,
The computer image takes only minutes biopsies are considered the "gold standard"
to show up, whereas biopsy results can for detecting cancers.
take up to a week. The Sestamibi Breast
However, the hope is that women will
Imaging technique would cost about $600, take part in the study because it might im-
a potential saving of between $900 and pact their care and the health of hundreds
of thousands of women in the future.
The Sestamibi study at Harper began
"That's the incentive," Dr. Davis says.
about six months ago. Across North Amer- "That's why it's so important."
ica, it is about a year old. The goal is to test
Dr. Davis, a New Yorker born on Long
a total of 600 women, which could take two Island, completed his nuclear medicine fel-
to three years, Dr. Davis says. Then, results lowship at Albert Einstein Yeshiva Uni-
ing 75 percent generally reveal abnormal, must be analyzed. Following, the procedure versity in the Bronx. He lives in Rochester,
yet benign, breast tissue.
must receive FDA approval.
Mich., with his wife, Mary, and two daugh-
Dr. Davis and other physicians involved
Currently, Harper Hospital is searching ters, Cecilia, 7, and Bernadette, 3. ❑
in the study hope their new technique will for women in the Detroit area to participate
2 For more information on Parti.ciPat-
reduce the need for biopsies among the 75 in the study. A woman is eligible if she
in the study, call Patricia Woodcroft,
percent of women who don't have cancer.
meets the following requirements:
at (313) 745 8447.
The procedure, which has been used for
1. She must be 21 years old or older.
Harper physicians take part in a
national breast cancer study.