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Ultrasound elastography eyed as cancer Dx method

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Scientists from Norway and France believe measuring tumor elasticity might be a better way to detect cancer. They'll test the relatively new method, known as elastography, as an alternative to biopsies on a wide swath of patients in both countries.

University of Oslo researchers are leading the effort, which gets substantial attention in an article published in the university's publication Apollon. Their collaborators in France include clinicians at the Hôpital Beaujon university hospital in Paris, according to the story. Initial testing on patients in both places will focus on liver fibrosis patients.

Performed primarily in conjunction with ultrasound, scientists believe that elastography could replace mammographies or the more invasive biopsies. And elastography, which would measure the stiffness of tumor tissue, could also be substantially cheaper than other imaging methods such as CT or PET scanning, and generate less radiation than X-ray machines. In short, the researchers' method involves using ultrasound to measure shear waves to focus on the 30% or so of the body that isn't water-based, rather than the more common pressure waves.

The scientists assert that wave velocity in ultrasound grows when a tumor is more dangerous. And measuring elasticity is a solid diagnostic approach, they argue, because tumors grow denser as they expand and develop large numbers of blood vessels.

But challenges remain, according to the story. Elastography, to be successful, must image smaller tumors more clearly than it currently can, an expert in the story notes. That ability is currently limited, which doesn't necessarily set it apart just yet from a standard mammography, according to the article.

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