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Siemens Medical Solutions Ultrasound Division (Mountain View, California) and U-Systems (San Jose, California) have entered into an agreement in which Siemens will distribute U-Systems' SomoVu automated breast ultrasound system on a worldwide scale.

The completely automated system can be used as an adjunct to mammography, focusing primarily on women with dense breast tissue. Studies have shown that mammography is less effective in such patients, the company said.

"Ultrasound is emerging as a critically important breast imaging complement to mammography for the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, particularly for women with dense breast tissue," said Joseph Pepper, president/CEO of U-Systems. "The challenge with ultrasound has always been to produce standardized, repeatable images much like mammography has done. Our automated ultrasound solution joined with the sales and marketing expertise of Siemens Medical will allow us to achieve broader market awareness and to accelerate the dissemination of this leading edge technology into the fight against breast cancer."

In a recently published study in The New England Journal of Medicine, Canadian researchers reported that women with significantly dense breast tissue have a risk of breast cancer three to five times higher than women with fatty breast tissue. Furthermore, dense breast tissue makes the detection of cancer by mammography more difficult.

The SomoVu system is designed to provide automated ultrasound image acquisition of the breast. In combination with an integrated display system, it allows for comprehensive display and review of 3-D breast volumes.

"Automated ultrasound acquisition systems, such as the SomoVu breast scanner, mark the first steps to establish ultrasound as a cost-effective, breast imaging supplement without the use of ionizing radiation," said Klaus Hambuechen, president of Siemens Medical Solutions Ultrasound Division. "Automated image acquisition makes ultrasound studies less user-dependent increasing reproducibility. The automated breast scanner is only the beginning. Siemens Medical Solutions is already working on automated ultrasound acquisition techniques for other applications as well."

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