The role of 99mTc-sestamibi and other conventional radiopharmaceuticals in breast cancer diagnosis

Semin Nucl Med. 1999 Jan;29(1):16-40. doi: 10.1016/s0001-2998(99)80027-0.


The wide availability and the extensive use of screening mammography have resulted in an earlier diagnosis of breast cancer and in a significant reduction in the relative risk of dying from this disease. Despite technical improvements and major advantages associated with the use of mammography (and breast ultrasound), this procedure has some limitations in clinical practice, especially in women with dense breast tissue, implants, severe dysplastic disease, or significant architectural distortion following breast surgery or radiation therapy. Different noninvasive imaging techniques have been evaluated to overcome these limitations. Nuclear medicine also has been actively involved in the detection of breast cancer, using various types of radiopharmaceuticals. Currently, there are three radiotracers commonly used for breast imaging or scintimammography in either clinical practice or research: 99mTc-sestamibi and 99mTc-tetrofosmin (two agents used for myocardial perfusion imaging) and 99mTc-MDP (methylene diphosphonate, used for bone scintigraphy). 99mTc-sestamibi was the first radiopharmaceutical to be approved by the FDA for scintimammography. Several prospective studies have shown that the overall sensitivity of 99mTc-sestamibi scintimammography in detection of breast cancer was 85%, the specificity was 89%, and the positive and negative predictive values were 89% and 84% respectively. Similar numbers have been demonstrated for 99mTc-tetrofosmin and 99mTc-MDP scintimammography. Although not indicated as a screening procedure for the detection of breast cancer, scintimammography may play a useful and significant role in various specific clinical indications such as nondiagnostic or difficult mammography, and evaluation of high-risk patients, tumor response to chemotherapy, and axillary lymph node metastatic involvement.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Organotechnetium Compounds
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Technetium Tc 99m Medronate
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Organotechnetium Compounds
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • technetium tc-99m tetrofosmin
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi
  • Technetium Tc 99m Medronate