You’ve heard the saying that information is power – but it can also provide peace of mind. Being told you have to return for a diagnostic exam can be stressful. But knowing the facts and what to expect can help to lessen any concerns you might have. If an abnormality is found in a mammogram, it does not necessarily mean you have cancer. On average, only three to four mammograms per 1,000 lead to a cancer diagnosis. Irregularities in breast tissue require careful study. More mammographic views and other diagnostic techniques such as breast ultrasound or minimally invasive biopsy can help detect the presence of cancer.
Diagnostic examinations are required when an abnormality is found on a screening mammogram or a physical issue is detected, such as a breast lump or change in the breast or skin or nipple discharge. Diagnostic examinations can only be scheduled with an order from your physician. The diagnostic mammogram examination is the same as that of a regular mammogram.
A breast ultrasound is a non-radiation, non-invasive imaging technique that relies on sonar technology (sound waves) and is often used in conjunction with a diagnostic mammogram where an abnormality, like a lump or mass, was detected. Breast ultrasounds can determine if a lump or mass is fluid filled or solid. Fluid filled cysts are typically benign (non cancerous), but they can be quite tender. Draining the fluid, with a procedure called cyst aspiration, may alleviate symptoms. If a lump or mass is found to be solid, a breast biopsy may be recommended.
During a breast ultrasound the technologist will ask you to lie still on your back. You may be asked to raise your arm over your head or be propped towards one side during the exam. She will then apply a gel that is used to help improve the contact between the hand held ultrasound transducer and the skin. The technologist will obtain images by gently pressing and rolling the transducer over areas of the breast or underarms. Breast ultrasound exams are generally painless.
Minimally Invasive Biopsy
A breast biopsy is a procedure during which a physician removes breast tissue samples from an area that appears abnormal. The tissue is then evaluated by a pathologist to determine if the cells are cancerous or benign. At Breast Care for Washington we perform ultrasound-guided breast biopsies, which is a non-radiation, minimally invasive technique used to gather tissue samples from a breast abnormality discovered during a diagnostic mammogram and/or breast ultrasound. Sometimes these abnormalities turn out not to be a problem. If there is a potential problem early detection is essential and increases treatment options and the likelihood of successful recovery.