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Ductal Lavage Found Successful in Collecting Samples of Breast Cells

Ductal Lavage Found Successful in Collecting Samples of Breast Cells
Procedure Offers At-Risk Women Tool for Personalized Risk Assessment
M. D. Anderson News Release 11/07/01

A study published in the Nov. 7 issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute has found that a new procedure known as ductal lavage is a more successful technique for collecting and identifying atypical ductal cells of the breast - which are utilized as early warning signs of breast cancer development - than the standard nipple aspiration. Dr. Henry Mark Kuerer, assistant professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Surgical Oncology, is a contributing author of the international study.

Ductal lavage involves inserting a hair-thin microcatheter into the milk ducts of the breast. Saline is flushed through the catheter to wash (lavage) cells out of the breast through its natural opening in the nipple. Collected cells are then analyzed for atypical cellular changes.

Conducted at 19 breast centers in the United States and Europe, the multi-center clinical study enrolled 507 healthy women, all at high risk for breast cancer.

Women enrolled in the study received the new ductal lavage procedure and an older technique called nipple aspiration. The median number of milk duct cells collected by the nipple aspiration procedure was 120. In comparison, the ductal lavage method collected an average of 13,500 milk duct cells.

Ductal lavage is the only minimally-invasive method of collecting large numbers of cells from the breast milk ducts, where the majority of breast cancers originate.

According to Dr. Kuerer, atypical cells have been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer development four to five times, and even higher for women who also have a family history of the disease. Therefore, finding atypical cells provides unique information about a woman's personal risk for developing breast cancer.

"This technology is a very exciting new method for potentially gathering information on the source of where breast cancer begins in women," says Dr. Kuerer. "Ductal lavage may help at-risk women personalize their risk assessment and thereby help them decide to intervene with known breast cancer preventative measures, such as taking tamoxifen or, in rare cases, electing to have a prophylactic mastectomy."

While promising, Dr. Kuerer cautions that ductal lavage is not a front-line detection technique and should only be utilized by at-risk women in conjunction with standard methods, including mammography, clinical and self-breast exams.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center