Difference Between Women's Imaging Exams

women’s imaging, mammography screening, diagnostic mammography

At BICRAD, Women’s Imaging involves all areas of breast imaging, including breast mammography, breast ultrasound, breast mri, and breast biopsy. These exams all serve a different purpose but admittedly, they can appear very similar to our patients.

We know that even routine examinations can bring up a lot of questions and we want to make sure you always receive the most accurate information when going into a women’s imaging exam. That is why we’d like to take the time to discuss the difference between these women’s imaging exams.

Mammography Screening

A breast mammography is an x-ray examination that takes two pictures of each breast to detect signs of cancer. Screening mammograms are routinely performed on asymptomatic women and not on women who have presented signs or symptoms of cancer, or for women who have previously presented abnormalities.

Diagnostic Mammography

A breast diagnostic mammography is a more detailed x-ray examination performed on women who have presented signs or symptoms of cancer, or whose mammogram screening has detected abnormalities. Women who have previously been found with abnormalities, or who have cancer (or are going through cancer), are also given a diagnostic mammogram rather than a regular screening mammogram.

Breast Cancer Ultrasound

A breast ultrasound is a high-frequency sonar used to image a breast, particularly after a physical exam to identify whether a lump is solid or fluid-filled, which can help pinpoint whether it is cancerous. A breast ultrasound can also be done in combination with diagnostic mammography to better identify the characteristics of the abnormality.

Breast MRI

A breast MRI is an essential and commonly used exam in women’s imaging because it is able to provide more information than mammograms, ultrasounds, and physical exams. This exam is usually conducted on women with very high-risk cases for screening, women with breast implants, women with dense breasts which are difficult to image, or for new cancer diagnosis to determine the amount, extent, and location of tumors.

Breast Biopsy

Breast biopsies are typically conducted to conclusively determine whether a mass, lump, or abnormality is cancerous or benign by removing a small cell sample for identification. These biopsies tend to be guided using an imaging test that allows doctors to pinpoint the location of the mass. Two forms of these kinds of biopsies are stereotactic breast biopsy and ultrasound-guided breast biopsies.

A stereotactic breast biopsy uses mammography (x-ray) to locate the abnormality. For this biopsy, the patient is placed face-down with the breast protruding through a hole in the table’s surface. In ultrasound-guided biopsies, patients are standing or reclining while a doctor uses a hand-held transducer to move across the breast while a probe retrieves the tissue sample.

More Information

The difference between women’s imaging exams can sometimes be subtle and we’d like to encourage you to ask questions about your women’s imaging exam. If you’d like to get more information on women’s imaging, or on any of these imaging exams, please feel free to contact us. To receive any of these imaging exams, book an appointment today.