Identifying Cervical Cancer Earlier

The new technique offers better imaging of smaller tumours and may also improve surgical options when fertility-sparing procedures are being considered.

"Small lesions are often difficult to image, but imaging their full extent is important in surgical planning," said study author Nandita deSouza. "By adding this technique to image the diffusion, or movement, of water within tissue, we can improve the accuracy of detecting small tumours."

Largely attributable to increased use of the Pap test, cervical cancer death rates declined since 1955. "Cervical cancers increasingly are being picked up at an earlier stage," deSouza said. "The new procedure causes no more discomfort than a Pap test and the diffusion-weighted imaging itself only takes 84 seconds." The entire procedure takes approximately 15 minutes.

In the 22-month study period, 59 women, ages 24 to 83, were placed into two groups. Group one consisted of 20 women awaiting biopsies due to abnormal cervical tissue development at screening and 18 women who had invasive cervical cancer confirmed by biopsy. Group two consisted of 21 women in whom it was necessary to evaluate the presence of the invasive disease.

The patients underwent high-resolution MRI with the addition of a ring coil inserted into the vagina and positioned around the cervix. The coil was designed specifically to image the cervix and enabled measurement of diffusion of water within the tissue cells. The researchers found that the diffusion of water was reduced in cancerous tissue compared to normal tissue.

"Measurement of water diffusion enabled us to differentiate cervical cancers from the normal glandular lining of the cervix," deSouza said. "Use of these measurements in conjunction with conventional MRI makes detection of early stage cervical cancer easier. I am hopeful that this technique will be used routinely in the future in patients with suspected small tumours."; Source: Radiological Society of North America