Skip to main content


Table 1 Molecular imaging for breast cancer

From: Advances in molecular imaging for breast cancer detection and characterization

Modality Indication Advantages Disadvantages
Radionuclide imaging    
Positron emission tomography Detection Wide range of molecular imaging probes Limited spatial resolution (improved with use of non-contrast computed tomography)
  Response evaluation Tumor characterization Tracer imaging without perturbing biologic system  
    Some radiation exposure
Positron emission mammography Detection Tumor characterization More sensitive for smaller tumors Higher spatial resolution Increased radiation dose Visualization of posterior lesions Variable uptake of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) in small and less metabolically active tumors
Breast-specific gamma imaging Detection More sensitive for smaller tumors Heavy compression of breast tissue not required Associated with radiation exposure Best combined with anatomic imaging (mammography) for optimal screening Longer imaging time
    Some radiation exposure
Magnetic resonance    
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), especially dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI and targeted contrast agents Tumor characterization Quantification of tumor perfusion and tumor capillary permeability Confined space Contrast design limited by need for magnetic atom
Magnetic resonance spectroscopy Tumor characterization Can measure wide range of molecules No contrast necessary Limited spatial resolution Challenging to obtain high-quality spectra in routine imaging
Ultrasound, especially with contrast enhancement Detection Tumor characterization Highly portable, inexpensive Molecular microbubble agents possible Operator dependence Contrast agents confined to vascular space thus far
Optical imaging Tumor characterization Inexpensive, highly portable, and does not necessarily require a contrast agent Limited depth penetration, challenging spatial localization, and operator dependence