Most of the time the go-to breast imaging tool is a mammogram. When your doctor orders you a mammogram you get to thinking. You’re wondering, “Are there other breast imaging tools out there?”, and sure enough, there are. You should know that there is more than one imaging tool used for detecting breast cancer and checking up on breast health. It is estimated that one out of 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. Let’s figure out what breast imaging tool is right for you.
A mammogram is a specialized imaging tool that detects breast cancer by using low-dose X-rays to see inside the breast tissue. This traditional screening test can find changes in your breast two years before you or your physician can feel them. This is the most common method for breast cancer detection. There are two different types of mammograms a digital mammogram and a 3D mammogram.
Digital mammography is when instead of X-rays film they use electronics that develop images of the breast tissue. The technology is similar to a digital camera and the X-ray images are clearer using lower radiation doses. These images are reviewed by the radiologist. Often it is used to detect abnormal lumps and cysts.
3D mammography, otherwise known as tomosynthesis, is also an important breast imaging tool. It provides added detail not available in traditional imaging. This machine develops several images of the layers of breast tissue. The machine rotates in an arc around the breast and takes images from different angles. Images are more detailed and revealing providing the radiologist with more information. This imaging machine is faster to use.
Often this is used when a physical exam detects lumps or there is a pain in the breast. Images from an ultrasound show the makeup of an abnormality or lump in the breast. It detects whether a lump is filled with fluid or is solid in shape. Ultrasound is used in women with dense breasts or during pregnancy. It is often used when you are at high risk for breast cancer.
This is an imaging tool that provides information not available using other imaging methods. This method is used for women at high risk due to family history. It determines the extent that breast cancer that has been diagnosed has spread to other areas of the body. A breast MRI looks more closely at cysts and lumps. Radiologists use it to check you when you have had breast cancer treatments or surgery. It is used to check breast implants and chemotherapy results.
Diagnostic Imaging Biopsies
A diagnostic imaging biopsy is when they take a sample of your breast tissue to examine in the lab. There are usually two ways to take a biopsy. One is using a needle and other a surgical procedure. It is often an outpatient procedure. Some bruising may occur but it is a minimally invasive procedure. Tissue samples are taken in different ways and often an imaging machine is used to guide the needle. When they do a needle biopsy you will be given a local anesthetic to keep you from feeling pain. It takes less than one hour and often you will be hooked to an IV line while the nurse slides you into a scanner. A surgical biopsy is more invasive and often requires taking more tissue sample.