Affirm: New tool for breast cancer diagnosis

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – As many as 1.6 million breast biopsies are done in the United States every year. As doctors try to rule out, or diagnosis breast cancer. Now a new system allows radiologists to more precisely target suspicious areas during a 20-minute outpatient procedure.

Fifty-year-old Lisa Smith eats right and lives a healthy lifestyle every day. It’s one way she’s getting her life back on track as she wraps up her breast cancer treatment.

Smith told Ivanhoe, “Feeling much stronger. My food taste normal again. My energy is back.”

Smith’s doctors at a St. Louis hospital diagnosed her cancer at an early stage. They were among the first in the country to use the affirm 3D biopsy system.

Debbie Bennett, M.D., the director of Breast Imaging at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, detailed, “Before the affirm system came along there wasn’t a great way to biopsy abnormalities that we could only see on the 3D mammogram.”

The big difference for patients, they are lying face down with their breast exposed through an opening. Technicians work underneath.

Dr. Bennett explained, “If a patient is lying on their back, their breast is actually going to be very flat.  What we need is to be able to spread the tissue apart so we can precisely pinpoint one area of the breast.”

A computerized unit under the table help doctors accurately direct the biopsy needle. A tiny hole in the tip allows them to remove a tissue sample about the size of a grain of rice. Although Smith’s biopsy showed she was positive she was glad the testing process was precise.

Smith said, “It’s very targeted. Done in real time, no digging around. No guessing.”

Smith’s first grandchild was born the day before she started chemo. She’s thankful for a diagnosis and treatment that will keep her around for the people she loves.

Researchers in Europe were among the early test sites for affirm. They said doctors are able to visualize more tissue and conduct a faster procedure than traditional mammogram-guided biopsy.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.