A digital mammogram uses X-rays to produce images in seconds. It is widely regarded as the single best imaging exam for detecting early signs of breast cancer, even before a patient or physician can feel a lump. At Carondelet, we offer two types of digital mammograms: screening and diagnostic.
Screening mammograms are used for women without any obvious lumps or symptoms related to their breasts. A screening mammogram obtains two different views of each breast. Currently, the American College of Radiology, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Consortium of Breast Centers encourage women to begin annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40. There is currently no set recommended age to stop screening mammography. This is determined on an individual basis with your physician based on your overall general health.
Diagnostic mammograms are for women who have a specific problem relating to the breast, including a breast lump, breast pain, nipple discharge, or a history of breast cancer. Diagnostic mammograms are also performed to further evaluate abnormal areas of the breast tissue seen on screening mammography. Diagnostic mammograms may include the standard views of the breast obtained during screening mammography. However, unlike screening mammography, additional images may be taken to further evaluate a specific breast problem or abnormality seen on screening mammography.
Breast ultrasound uses sound waves in real time to further evaluate the internal structures of the breast. Most often, breast ultrasound is used to further evaluate a specific area of concern seen on a screening mammogram or a specific breast problem, including a new breast lump, breast pain, or nipple discharge. Breast ultrasound is also the first imaging study used to evaluate breast symptoms in women younger than 30.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a painless procedure that creates images of the breast without the use of radiation. A special dye will be inserted in your veins to help the radiologist evaluate any areas of concern. . A breast MRI often is used together with a mammogram to detect and evaluate breast cancer. MRI is useful for diagnosing and evaluating:
- Patients with dense breast tissue or breast implants
- Patients who are determined to be at high risk for developing breast cancer. Your doctor can determine this by using a breast cancer risk assessment tool to determine your personal risk based on multiple factors.
- Patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer
- Patients’ responses to chemotherapy prior to surgical removal of a known cancer
Please note that a breast MRI does not replace an annual mammogram. Some cancers can only be seen on a mammogram.
Carondelet offers three types of biopsies for the screening and detection of breast cancer: ultrasound, stereotactic, and MRI-guided. Image-guided biopsies like these vastly improve the radiologist’s ability to collect good tissue samples to make the most accurate diagnosis possible. All three types of biopsies are done with local anesthetic and a very small incision, allowing for a rapid recovery.
An ultrasound guided biopsy uses sound wave technology in order for the radiologist to view the area of concern. While watching the real time moving images, the radiologist can ensure that the biopsy needle passes through the target area in order to get the best possible tissue samples for the pathologist to determine a diagnosis.
During a stereotactic biopsy, a mammogram is used to create stereo images- pictures of the same area of the breast from several angles. The target area of concern can then be localized using specialized computer software. A sample of breast tissue is then removed with a needle. Most times, confirmation that the target area of concern was adequately sampled can be obtained by obtaining an xray of the biopsy specimen. This ensures that the best possible tissue samples are available for the pathologist to determine a diagnosis.
An MRI- guided biopsy is used when a lesion is not visible with a mammogram or ultrasound. The radiologist uses data from the MRI to guide the biopsy needle into the area of concern and take tissue samples through a small incision.The samples are sent to the pathologist to determine a diagnosis.
CAD helps our radiologists analyze suspicious areas found during a mammogram or breast MRI. The radiologist will then use this information to determine what areas, if any, warrant additional evaluation. This can result in fewer false negative results and improve cancer detection.