A Clearer Picture of Breast Imaging - Mammograms: The Best Tool for Early
Detection of Breast Cancer
Do You Understand and Know About the Various Types of Breast Imaging?
Mammography is widely recognized as the “gold standard” in
detecting breast cancer. Additionally, today’s mammograms expose
the breast to much less radiation compared with those in the past and
are more accurate. Breast cancer develops over time and can be present
before a tumor can be detected by a physical exam. Establishing a pattern
of annual mammography, ongoing physical exams by your physician and being
aware of any changes in your breasts are the best ways to take an active
role in maintaining good breast health.
Screening mammograms are used for women who are at average risk and have
no signs or symptoms of the disease. The goal of a screening mammogram
is to find breast cancer when it's too small to be felt by a woman
or her physician. This type of mammogram usually involves two x-ray pictures,
or images, of each breast. The images make it possible to detect tumors
that cannot be felt as well as microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium)
that may indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Diagnostic mammograms are performed if there are noticeable breast problems
- like a lump or nipple discharge - or if abnormalities are found in a
screening mammogram. Sometimes diagnostic mammograms are done for screening
in women without breast problems who were previously treated for breast
cancer. Diagnostic mammography takes longer than screening mammography
because more images are taken to carefully study the area of concern.
This type of mammography may also provide a closer look and clarify that
an area that appeared abnormal on a screening mammogram is actually normal,
or that an area abnormal tissue is probably not cancer.
Digital and conventional mammography both use x-rays to produce an image
of the breast. In conventional mammography, the image is stored directly
on film whereas, in digital mammography, an electronic image of the breast
is stored as a computer file. This digital information can be enhanced,
magnified, or manipulated for further evaluation.
3D Mammogram (Tomosynthesis)
Three-dimensional (3D) mammography – also known as Tomosynthesis
- is a type of digital mammography that produces a 3D image of the breast
by using several low dose x-rays obtained at different angles. For tomosynthesis,
the breast is positioned and compressed in the same way as for a mammogram
but the x-ray tube moves in a circular arc around the breast, and the
information is sent to a computer, which produces a focused 3-D image
of the breast.
The 3-D images enable doctors to see inside the breast more clearly than
with a standard 2-view mammogram. While 3-D mammograms expose the breasts
to more radiation than standard mammograms, they remain within FDA-approved
safe levels for radiation from mammograms.
RWJBarnabas Health offers the latest in screening and diagnostic imaging
tools to help detect and diagnose breast cancer.
An ultrasound, also known as sonography, uses sound waves to make a picture
of the tissues inside the breast, including the area closest to the chest
wall. Breast ultrasound is used to find the cause of the breast symptoms,
check a breast lump found on breast self-examination or physical examination,
and check abnormal mammogram results.
Utilized in combination with other tests, such as mammogram or ultrasound,
breast MRI is recommended for screening women who are at high risk for
breast cancer due to family history and/or a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
It is used for patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to
help measure the size of the cancer and look for any other tumors in the
breast. It's also used to examine the opposite breast - to be sure
that it doesn't contain any tumors.
Breast MRI Biopsy
An MRI-guided breast biopsy is helpful when MRI imaging shows a breast
abnormality such as a suspicious mass not identified by other imaging
techniques, and an area of distortion or abnormal tissue change. Using
MRI guidance to calculate the position of the abnormal tissue and to verify
the placement of the needle, the radiologist inserts the biopsy needle
through the skin, advances it into the lesion and removes tissue samples.
A galactogram is a special X-ray exam that evaluates breast fluid. The
procedure requires the insertion of a very fine plastic tube into the
breast duct. This allows the radiologist to insert a contrast material
into the duct so it can be seen on the X-ray of your breast.
Stereotactic Breast Biopsy
Stereotactic breast biopsy is a non-surgical needle biopsy technique that
may be used in place of surgery to decide whether a suspicious mammographic
lesion is benign or malignant. This procedure involves an X-ray-guided
needle that is controlled by a computer to obtain a tiny sampling of breast tissue.
RWJBarnabas Health Breast Services
From revolutionary diagnostic technologies, to innovative and promising
new therapies, each of our breast programs offers world-class care and
treatment by a team of medical experts. From medical and radiation oncology,
to conservation and reconstruction surgeries, our team of physicians,
surgeons, social workers, nurse navigators and genetic counselors are
readily available to assist patients and their families - all with an
unwavering focus on not only physical well-being, but also emotional and
National Mammography Day
Each year, the third Friday in October marks National Mammography Day.
RWJBarnabas Health encourages women to make a mammography appointment
on this day and throughout the month by calling one of our
breast imaging centers. Wear pink to show your support!
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