What Is a Scintimammography?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is scintimammography?

Doctor's response

Scintimammography is an imaging technique that uses a radioisotope (a radioactive substance) to help visualize the breast. This imaging technique can detect breast cancer sometimes in situations in which there is considerable uncertainty, as with dense breast tissue.

Dense breast tissue is particularly difficult to decipher by standard mammography. As a consequence, women with dense breasts have an unusually high incidence of false positives with standard mammography -- test results that appear "falsely" positive in the absence of cancer. The false positives lead to unneeded biopsies and anxiety.

Scintimammography with technetium tetrofosmin (Tc-99 tetrofosmin) is especially valuable in these women with dense breasts, who tend to be young women before the menopause.

Breast malignancies typically show increased uptake of the Tc-99 tetrofosmin as compared to benign growths. In one study, the Tc-99 tetrofosmin test had an accuracy of nearly 90%, while standard mammography yielded a significantly lower value.

Scintimammography with technetium tetrofosmin scintimammography (Tc-99 tetrofosmin) has been approved by the US Food and Drug (FDA) for the diagnosis of breast cancer. The technique is not meant to replace standard mammography and other current tests but to be used in conjunction with them.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018
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