ó Doctors in Manhattan are proposing dual duty for
mammograms because the screening technology can spot a key
sign of heart disease, which kills 10 times more women than
mammography is an underappreciated tool that can provide vivid
images of blood vessels and reveal risks that lead to heart
attacks and strokes, said Dr. Laurie Margolies, an associate
professor of radiology, and Dr. Harvey Hecht, a professor of
medicine at Mount Sinaiís Icahn School of Medicine.
physicians expect their proposal to stir debate when they
present it this week at a meeting of the American College of
Cardiology in Chicago.
when reading mammograms we were taught that we have one job
and one job only, and thatís to look for cancer," said
Margolies, chief of breast imaging at Mount Sinai Hospitalís
Dubin Breast Center. "But mammography is designed to
reveal calcifications in the breast because calcifications can
be an early sign of breast cancer."
calcium deposits in breast tissue are important in the
diagnosis of cancer, blood vessels that branch throughout the
breast can independently possess calcifications. Those
deposits, Margolies said, are a salient signature of
atherosclerosis, the narrowing of vessels marred by plaque.
the new research involving nearly 300 women, Margolies said it
is very likely that a patient may have no evidence of
calcification associated with cancer, but may have obvious
deposits in the branching arteries ó blood vessels in the
breast ó suggestive of a risk for heart disease.
calcifications that are in the vessels look very different
from cancer calcifications," Margolies said. She noted
that calcifications in the vasculature show up sharp on
digital mammograms just as tissue calcifications are clear in
an image suggestive of cancer.
director of cardiovascular imaging at Mount Sinaiís St. Lukeís
Hospital, also in Manhattan, said the new research is the
first relatively large study to determine whether mammography
is a useful tool to screen for a major cardiovascular risk
smaller research projects, he said, also examined mammography
to screen for heart disease, but they didnít fully explore
the degree to which the technology could be an appropriate
analysis, Hecht added, is the first to show breast arterial
calcification correlating with coronary artery calcification
because in the study, women who had signs of arterial calcium
deposits on a mammogram were confirmed through CT scans to
have evidence of coronary artery deposits as well.
Hecht said, the mammogram evidence turned out to be a more
powerful predictor of heart disease risk than other
well-established cardiovascular indicators such as high
cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
takes less than 15 seconds to analyze," Hecht said of
spotting arterial calcium deposits on a mammogram.
Stacey Rosen, vice president of womenís health at The Katz
Institute for Womenís Health, a division of medical-care
giant Northwell in New Hyde Park, said sheís excited about
the new findings and plans to be in the audience a week from
Saturday when Margolies and Hecht officially announce their
think itís fascinating from a couple of points of
view," Rosen, a cardiologist, said Wednesday, noting that
the research is important because it means an existing
technology may be used to help combat the biggest disease
threat women face.
is also an opportunity to align different clinical groups to
really look at womenís health needs in total. This presents
an opportunity for practitioners to get out of their
silos," Rosen said.
emphasized that the work is still preliminary and needs to be
replicated, but with solid science already undergirding the
findings, Rosen said itís likely future research will
support the notion that mammograms can be used to screen for
signs of heart disease.
meanwhile, said a single mammogram can yield results about
cancer and heart disease at the same time.
no additional cost or radiation exposure, women can get this
information through routine mammography," she said.