Amy Lynn Conners, M.D., is a diagnostic radiologist who researches molecular breast imaging, along with a team of investigators including Katie N. Hunt, M.D., Carrie B. Hruska, Ph.D., and Michael K. O'Connor, Ph.D. Molecular breast imaging exams are images of the breast taken using gamma cameras after injection of a small amount of radioactive dye. The dye becomes more concentrated in cancer, making it visible on the images. Molecular breast imaging can find cancer even when it is located in dense breast tissue, which can be hidden on a mammogram.
Dr. Conners also participates in research on quality and process improvement within Mayo Clinic's Department of Radiology.
- Molecular breast imaging for breast cancer screening. Dr. Conners is a member of a multidisciplinary team studying the use of molecular breast imaging in detecting breast cancer in people with dense breast tissue. The team is working to establish whether molecular breast imaging can detect more-aggressive types of cancer earlier and to determine how often molecular breast imaging should be used.
- Molecular breast imaging lexicon. Dr. Conners worked with Dr. Hunt to develop a standardized set of descriptive terms for molecular breast imaging findings. The team's current work includes determining which findings are predictive of different types of cancer.
- Process improvement in radiology. Dr. Conners and her team have implemented lean principles and tools to improve patient experience and overall efficiency of the imaging practice of Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic.
Significance to patient care
Because dense breast tissue can hide cancer on a mammogram, there is a need for new ways to look for breast cancer that are not affected by tissue density. It is important that any new diagnostic technique accurately identify different types of cancer, especially those that are most threatening to patients. This accuracy will help ensure that patients do not have to undergo unnecessary follow-up exams or biopsies for noncancerous findings. Molecular breast imaging has the potential to fill this need.
Molecular breast imaging has already been shown to find cancer at a higher rate than mammography or ultrasound in people with dense breasts. The goal of Dr. Connor's research is to determine whether molecular breast imaging finds more-aggressive cancers, which would indicate that it has a role in preventing deaths from breast cancer.