Regular screening is the best way to discover breast cancer before it’s in its earliest stages, giving you the best chance at beating it. With modern technology always advancing, our breast cancer screening options have broadened to offer even more when it comes to choosing the best imaging method for you. We will take a look at the ins and outs of the different methods of women’s imaging to help you better understand what options are available to you.
The most common screening method for breast cancer is the mammogram. Mammograms use X-rays to scan the breast. A radiologist will then analyze the images to look for any abnormalities. For a long time, images from mammograms were recorded on film, however modern technology has allowed digital mammograms to store and analyze the information using a computer. During a mammogram, a radiology technician places your breast between two plates, which are then flattened and compressed. Then images of your breast are taken from all sides, then stored on a computer.
A 3-D mammogram is an imaging test that combines multiple breast X-rays to create a 3-D image of the breast. A 3-D mammogram is used to identify breast cancer in people who have no signs or symptoms. By combining 3-D mammograms with standard mammograms, we are able to reduce the need for additional imaging.
A breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a test used to identify breast cancer or abnormalities in the breast. A breast MRI is able to take multiple pictures of the breast, which are then compiled and combined on a computer to generate more detailed images. Your doctor may call for a breast MRI if you’ve had a positive result for cancer via a biopsy. You may also be a candidate for a breast MRI if you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast ultrasound is another breast cancer screening test that uses sound waves to see inside the breast. This test may be used when a woman notices a change in her breast, but the abnormality or change may not have been caught or seen through a mammogram. During a breast ultrasound, a transducer (which looks like a wand), is waved over your breasts. The sound waves from the transducer are made into images detailing the inside of your breast.
These varying imaging techniques can be used on their own or in conjunction with one another to detect breast cancer. Your doctor and radiologist will work to choose the best imaging plan for you based on your health history, risk factors, and unique needs.