Revolutionising breast cancer detection in SA: Contrast Enhanced Mammography (CEM)

CEM positioning

In a groundbreaking advancement for women’s health, Benson Radiology has brought Contrast Enhanced Mammography (CEM) to South Australia, a technology poised to significantly improve breast cancer detection.

Previously only accessible interstate, this marks a major milestone in the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

Why is it important?

Mammography is still the most reliable form of imaging to detect breast cancer, but it is less sensitive among women with dense breast tissue, where (under mammography) the breast tissue can often mask small suspicious lesions. 

1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and outcomes are improved when cancer is detected in its early stages. 

CEM improves the accuracy of routine mammography, aiding the early detection of breast cancer. 

What is Contrast Enhanced Mammography (CEM)?

A CEM examination uses iodinated contrast dye to increase the information gathered during a routine mammogram. The dye highlights abnormal blood flow to cancerous lesions, making it easier to spot potential breast cancers, irrespective of breast density.

What is dense breast tissue, and why does it matter?

Nearly 1 in 2 women aged 40 to 70 have dense breast tissue. Breast density is not reflected in how your breasts may feel or look, but is an assessment based on a mammogram. Every woman’s breast is made up of varying amounts of glandular tissue and fat. 

Dense breast tissue reduces the sensitivity of routine mammography, as cancers, particularly small ones, can be obscured by the tissue. This can potentially lead to missed lesions and delayed diagnosis,” says Dr Shan Bau, a radiologist at Benson Radiology.

What are the benefits of CEM?

Dr. Bau emphasises that CEM can be as accurate as MRI in detecting lesions, with added benefits: it is less costly, better tolerated, and quicker than an MRI. This makes CEM a viable alternative for women who cannot undergo MRI due to medical conditions like metallic implants or claustrophobia.

Women are becoming more aware of their breast health and tissue density, and this technology provides greater peace of mind,” Dr Bau says.

What’s involved in a CEM examination?

From a patient’s perspective, a CEM examination closely mirrors a routine mammogram, with the addition of a contrast dye injection into a vein in the arm.

Once injected, the procedure involves the standard four views and compression typical of a mammogram. The entire process takes approximately 30 minutes.

The results of the mammogram are provided to the referring clinician within the usual timeframes. The patient may still require additional tests such as an ultrasound or biopsy to evaluate findings from the CEM, or as requested by their clinician.

Enhancing breast cancer detection

CEM’s introduction to South Australia represents a significant advancement in breast cancer detection, particularly for those women with dense breast tissue. With its potential for earlier and more accurate detection, CEM offers new hope and reassurance for women concerned about their breast health.

For women interested in CEM, discussing suitability with a GP or breast specialist and obtaining a referral to Benson Radiology is the next step.

Benson Radiology’s North Adelaide clinic offers a comprehensive breast service, including CEM. Currently, the out-of-pocket cost for a CEM is $250, with no Medicare rebate available.