New Hopes for Breast Cancer Patients

As president of Dilon Technologies Inc., a start-up Williamsburg company developing a new imaging system to help diagnose malignant tumors, Lon Slane thinks he might have a better way to test for breast cancer. Dillon is working in partnership with the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and the University of Virginia to develop the camera device, now about to be tested on breast cancer patients at the university's hospital.

The device will use nuclear medical imaging, existing technology that allows doctors to pinpoint cancerous tissue. Nuclear imaging of the breasts is known as scintimammography. To find a tumor, doctors inject a radioactive tracer substance into the patient. The substance accumulates at a higher rate in malignant tissue, which appears as a dark spot on the image. Scintimammography is gaining acceptance in hospitals nationwide. It typically costs less than biopsies and appears promising for women with dense breast tissue, scar tissue from earlier surgeries or implants that make mammograms difficult to read.

"Mammography will still be the best screening tool, but if possible abnormalities show up, then we should use it to decide the next step which may or may not be a biopsy," Slane said. "The diagnostic accuracy of X-rays is just not very good."