creening is a crucial tool in the battle against breast cancer. Research indicates that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to improve their odds of survival, as it is estimated that 5,000 Canadian women will die each year from this disease.

Women with dense breast tissue can sometimes be deterred from having a mammogram, as can women with pre-existing medical conditions, elective or non-elective surgeries, or for age-related reasons. However, Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS) provides a solution for these women and is why a growing number of medical practitioners recommend screening with this technology. Most women are unaware that around 40 to 50 percent of Canadian women have dense breast tissue, which can hide tumours, being more glandular and having more connective tissue than fat. Studies indicate women with dense breast tissue in three-quarters or more of their breasts have a 4–6 times greater risk of breast cancer than those with little to no dense tissue.

More and more Canadian women are choosing Automated Breast Ultrasound. “ABUS was designed specifically for whole-breast screening,” says Amanda Lamanna, manager of VIP Breast Imaging in Toronto, Ontario, which opened just over five years ago in Canada. “You are getting 100 percent radiation- and pain-free screening with a machine that provides a three-dimensional view of the breast.” Amanda continues, “that gives our radiologist a clearer and in-depth view with increased accuracy.” She adds, “this technology has many advantages where other modalities are quite limited. We’re picking up on infrequencies that result in missed or over-diagnosed cases, eliminating the need for unnecessary biopsies.”

A deeper look at breast cancer screening

The Canadian Cancer Society reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) affecting Canadian women and the second leading cause of death from cancer among them. Sonya Budd is a perfect example of the need for ABUS, as it saved her from being another one of breast cancer’s victims. Sonya, now 53 and director of development for two Jewish non-profit organizations, NCSY (formerly National Conference of Synagogue Youth) Canada and Torah High, was speaking with a close friend at the end of 2013 who mentioned he’d invested in ABUS. Somewhat reluctant, Sonya pointed out that she had a mammogram three months earlier — she’d been getting tested every year since age 34 because of her dense breast tissue. To appease her friend, Sonya finally booked an appointment at the end of January 2014.

Standard procedure was followed. ABUS results were forwarded to Sonya’s GP who immediately got in touch to inform her that ABUS had found something suspicious. Unfamiliar with this technology, Sonya’s GP sent her for a secondary mammogram that again failed to detect anything. The following day, an additional targeted ultrasound was conducted that indicated three areas of concern. Eventually, biopsies indicated two cancerous tumours. Sonya underwent a double lumpectomy in one breast and then 25 sessions of radiation over five weeks; it was determined she did not need chemotherapy. She’s now required to take an estrogen-blocking drug.

“It was because of this technology that I have a fantastic prognosis,” Sonya, a mother of three grown sons and grandmother of two, says of ABUS. “As women, we need to know this technology is available. Why should it be a secret? I feel like it’s my job to tell as many women as possible.”