Breast Screening & Diagnostic Imaging

Breast imaging services are the key to a proactive breast health plan. Imaging technology allows caregivers to detect breast cancers early and helps physicians plan effective treatments.

Women have access to complete screening and diagnostic imaging services at the Breast Care Center — a comprehensive breast health center located on the third floor of the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center.

The Breast Care Center offers a full range of standard imaging tests and advanced imaging technologies. Radiologists in the center specialize in breast imaging. They evaluate thousands of breast patients every year, so they have an in-depth understanding of breast malignancies and benign breast conditions.

The Breast Care Center emphasizes patient education. Radiologists, nurses and technologists take the time to explain all imaging procedures to patients, helping them make informed choices about their care.

Screening for Early Detection of Breast Cancer

The Breast Care Center offers a comprehensive approach to the early detection of breast cancer:

  • Screening appointments include a physical examination of the breasts performed by a specially trained radiologic technologist. The technologist takes a complete breast history and talks to the woman about any symptoms and concerns she may have.
  • The mammogram procedure takes about 30 minutes. Most patients undergo two studies of each breast, producing a four-view screening image. The Breast Care Center uses all digital mammography, which produces more accurate imaging in some women.
  • The Breast Cancer Program also offers screening MRIs for women with a high risk of developing breast cancer (see “Breast MRI” below).

Diagnostic Imaging to Investigate Breast Abnormalities

Radiologists at the Breast Care Center use several different imaging technologies to investigate breast abnormalities and gain additional knowledge about confirmed tumors:
  • Diagnostic mammography: Mammogram technology can be used to investigate abnormalities detected through screening mammograms. A diagnostic mammogram captures images of the breast from additional views and angles.
  • Breast ultrasound: Ultrasound is used to evaluate abnormalities detected through mammography or physical examination. For example, a mammogram might pick up a mass that appears to be a benign cyst. A breast ultrasound procedure can determine whether the mass is fluid-filled or solid, thereby confirming the benign diagnosis or indicating a need for further investigation.
  • Image-guided core biopsy: Some breast abnormalities cannot be adequately evaluated through imaging studies alone. A sample of the abnormal tissue must be examined by a pathologist in a laboratory to make an accurate diagnosis. Image-guided core biopsy is a simple procedure in which a radiologist collects a small amount of breast tissue using a hollow biopsy needle. During the procedure, ultrasound or stereotactic (mammographic) guidance is used to position the needle at the site of the suspicious tissue. For information on core biopsy analysis, see Breast Pathology.
  • Breast MRI: Many women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to determine the extent of their disease. MRI is very sensitive to differences in soft tissues, so it is able to detect some additional cancers that are missed by other imaging technologies. An MRI procedure can help detect smaller cancerous lesions that are adjacent to the diagnosed mass, elsewhere in the same breast or in the other breast. Having an MRI is especially important for women with dense breast tissue. Breast MRI may also be used as a screening tool for women with a greater than 20 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Image-guided localization: Women who will undergo surgery for a very small breast tumor (one that cannot be located easily by feel) first have a “localization” procedure. Using mammogram or ultrasound guidance, a radiologist places a small wire within the breast at the site of the cancerous lesion. During surgery, the wire allows surgeons to identify the tissues that need to be removed. For most patients, image-guided localization is performed immediately before surgery.