Mayo Clinic Health Letter, February 2012 Highlights: Molecular Breast Imaging: A Better Cancer Screening Tool for Dense Br

ROCHESTER, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Here are highlights from the February issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. You may cite this publication as often as you wish. Reprinting is allowed for a fee. Mayo Clinic Health Letter attribution is required. Include the following subscription information as your editorial policies permit: Visit or call toll-free for subscription information, 1-800-333-9037, extension 9771.

Molecular Breast Imaging: Better Way to Spot Cancer in Dense Breast Tissue

Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a new tool to better identify tumors in women with dense breast tissue. The February issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers this technology, called molecular breast imaging (MBI).

Breasts are a mixture of fatty and dense tissue. About one-half of women younger than age 50 have breast tissue considered dense on mammogram images. The same is true for about one-third of women over 50. On a mammogram, dense tissue and tumors both appear white. Spotting a tumor in dense tissue has been compared to looking through a frosted glass window.

MBI offers a clearer picture and detects three times as many cancers in women with dense breast tissue than traditional mammography does. Like mammography, MBI requires that the breast be compressed between two plates. However, MBI needs only about one-third of the pressure used for a mammogram. Prior to the imaging, a short-lived radioactive tracer is injected into the woman’s arm vein. Two 10-minute images are taken of each breast using gamma radiation. (Radiation levels from MBI are comparable to the dose that’s delivered from one digital screening mammogram.) If tumor cells are present, they absorb the tracer like a sponge and illuminate on the image.

MBI supplements -- rather than replaces -- mammography, which remains an accurate screening tool in women with non-dense breasts. The Food and Drug Administration approved MBI as a screening tool in 2010. While MBI is not widely available at all medical centers, that is expected to change over the next few years. MBI costs around $600.

Strokes: Recognizing Signs, Controlling Risks

Strokes are the fourth-leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. The February issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter includes an eight- page Special Report on stroke, covering risk factors, prevention, warning signs and treatment options.

Here are some highlights:

What happens: A stroke occurs when the blood supply to parts of the brain is suddenly altered. Ninety percent of strokes are ischemic strokes. They occur when the arteries to the brain are narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow. Equally serious, though less common, are hemorrhagic strokes -- occurring when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or bleeding starts in the artery of the brain. Both types of strokes can cause brain cells to die or become damaged, resulting in temporary or permanent changes to the mind and body.

Warning signs: Symptoms may occur suddenly and sometimes last just a short time. They can occur in different combinations. Traditional symptoms include numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the face or body; difficulty speaking or trouble understanding others; blurred, decreased or double vision; dizziness, trouble walking or loss of balance; and rapid onset of a severe headache.

Emergency treatment: The success of treatment depends on promptness. One of the most effective medications for ischemic stroke must be administered within 4.5 hours after the stroke begins.

TIAs: A transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a ministroke, is a brief episode of stroke-like symptoms. Like an ischemic stroke, a TIA occurs when a clot or plaque blocks blood flow to part of the brain. The blockage is temporary, and symptoms typically disappear within an hour. Some symptoms may last a few minutes. But fleeting symptoms should not be ignored. It’s possible to be having a stroke even when symptoms disappear. Anyone with stroke symptoms should seek emergency care.

Risk factors: Some risk factors can’t be changed. Family history plays a role and so does age. The stroke risk doubles in every decade after age 55. Men are at higher risk than women. American blacks are more likely to have strokes than other ethnic groups. Unmanaged diabetes, heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea increase the risk of stroke. Controllable risk factors include hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels, heavy alcohol use and inactivity.

A second stroke: A stroke survivor is at increased risk for a second stroke. Within five years, 24 percent of women and 42 percent of men will have another one.

Prevention: Strokes and recurrent strokes often can be prevented by reducing risk factors and undergoing preventive treatment. It’s wise to talk with a doctor about personal stroke risks and prevention strategies.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today’s health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 1-800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit

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