Molecular breast imaging: advantages and limitations of a scintimammographic technique in patients with small breast tumors

Breast J. 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):3-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2006.00356.x.


Preliminary studies from our laboratory showed that molecular breast imaging (MBI) can reliably detect tumors <2 cm in diameter. This study extends our work to a larger patient population and examines the technical factors that influence the ability of MBI to detect small breast tumors. Following injection of 740 MBq Tc-99m sestamibi, MBI was performed on 100 patients scheduled for biopsy of a lesion suspicious for malignancy that measured <2 cm on mammography or sonography. Using a small field of view gamma camera, patients were imaged in the standard mammographic views using light pain-free compression. Subjective discomfort, breast thickness, the amount of breast tissue in the detector field of view, and breast counts per unit area were measured and recorded. Follow-up was obtained in 99 patients; 53 patients had 67 malignant tumors confirmed at surgery. Of these, 57 of 67 were detected by MBI (sensitivity 85%). Sensitivity was 29%, 86%, and 97% for tumors <5, 6-10, and > or =11 mm in diameter, respectively. In seven patients, MBI identified eight additional mammographically occult tumors. Of 47 patients with no evidence of cancer at biopsy or surgery, there were 36 true negative and 11 false positive scans on MBI. MBI has potential for the regular detection of malignant breast tumors less than 2 cm in diameter. Work in progress to optimize the imaging parameters and technique may further improve sensitivity and specificity.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / instrumentation
  • Mammography / standards
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radionuclide Imaging / instrumentation
  • Radionuclide Imaging / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi*
  • Ultrasonography


  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi