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What is contrast-enhanced mammography (CEM)?

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer affecting women worldwide. Early detection and diagnosis play a crucial role in improving the prognosis of breast cancer. Mammography is a commonly used screening tool for breast cancer detection. However, mammography has certain limitations, especially in women with dense breasts. To overcome these limitations, contrast-enhanced mammography (CEM) was developed.

CEM is a new imaging technique that uses a contrast agent to enhance the visibility of breast tissue. The contrast agent is injected into the patient's bloodstream before the mammogram is taken. The contrast agent helps to highlight any areas of abnormal blood flow in the breast tissue, making it easier to detect cancerous growths.

CEM is different from traditional mammography in that it provides a more detailed image of the breast tissue. This can be especially useful in women with dense breast tissue, as dense tissue can make it more difficult to detect abnormalities in traditional mammography. CEM can also be used to assess the response to treatment in women with breast cancer.

CEM is generally recommended for women who have a high risk of developing breast cancer or those who have had inconclusive or abnormal mammograms. It is also used for women who have had breast cancer in the past and are undergoing surveillance for recurrence.

CEM is a safe procedure, and the risk of adverse reactions to the contrast agent is low. The contrast agent is usually administered through an intravenous (IV) line, and patients may experience mild discomfort at the injection site. Patients are advised to drink plenty of fluids after the procedure to help flush the contrast agent out of their system.

The CEM procedure itself is similar to a traditional mammogram. The patient will be asked to remove their clothing from the waist up and wear a hospital gown. The breast will be compressed between two plates, and X-ray images will be taken from different angles. The procedure takes around 10-15 minutes to complete. After the procedure, patients can resume their normal activities immediately. They may experience some mild discomfort or bruising at the site of the IV injection, but this usually subsides quickly.

CEM has been shown to be an effective tool in detecting breast cancer, especially in women with dense breast tissue. It is also useful in assessing the response to treatment in women with breast cancer. CEM is covered by most insurance plans, but patients are advised to check with their insurance provider before undergoing the procedure.

In conclusion, contrast-enhanced mammography (CEM) is a safe and effective tool for breast cancer detection. It is particularly useful in women with dense breast tissue or those who have had inconclusive or abnormal mammograms. If you have concerns about your breast health, speak to your healthcare provider about whether CEM is an appropriate screening tool for you.

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