The health ministry has decided to examine how effective ultrasound is in screening for breast cancer, ministry officials said Saturday.

To screen for breast cancer, doctors employ a two-pronged approach of conducting physical exams and mammograms. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will compare this with a three-pronged approach that also uses ultrasound exams to see if this increases the detection rate, they said.

The ministry will launch preliminary research during the current fiscal year before starting a five-year survey on some 60,000 women in their 40s next fiscal year.

Ultrasounds pose no radiation risk and ultrasound equipment is available at most medical facilities. It is hoped the added testing will lead to catching the deadly disease earlier, which offers a better chance of curing it.

In Japan, some 35,000 women are diagnosed as breast cancer annually.

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