Screening Tests


Mammography is the current standard test for breast cancer screening. MRI is also recommended along with mammograms for some women at high risk for breast cancer. Ultrasound and other tests may also be helpful for some women.


MAMMOGRAPHY is a screening tool that uses X-rays to create an image of the breast. These images, called mammograms, are used to find early signs of breast cancer such as a dense mass or clusters of calcium (microcalcifications).
Mammography is the best screening tool used today to find breast cancer. It can find cancers at an early stage, when they are small and most responsive to treatment.
A mammogram is an x-ray exam of the breast. It is used to detect and evaluate breast changes. Mammograms today expose the breast to much lower doses of radiation compared with devices used in the past.
For certain women at high risk for breast cancer, MRI is recommended along with a yearly mammogram thus increasing the detection of breast cancer in these high risk groups .MRI uses magnetic fields to create an image of the breast. MRI is mostly used in breast cancer diagnosis and staging. It is also suggested that for women diagnosed with cancer in one breast, MRI with mammography can find breast cancer in the opposite breast better than mammography alone. MRI with mammography is also under study for screening in women with dense breast tissue.
Ultrasound uses sound waves to make images of the breast. It is often used as a follow-up test to an abnormal mammogram, MRI or clinical breast exam. Breast ultrasound is not routinely used for screening. Some studies have suggested that ultrasound may be a helpful addition to mammography when screening women with dense breast tissue (which is hard to evaluate with a mammogram), but the use of ultrasound instead of mammograms for breast cancer screening is not recommended.
Ultrasound is useful for evaluating some breast masses and is the only way to tell if a suspicious area is a cyst (fluid-filled sac) without placing a needle into it to aspirate fluid. Cysts cannot be accurately diagnosed by physical exam alone. Breast ultrasound may also be used to help doctors guide a biopsy needle into some breast lesions.
Ultrasound has become a valuable tool to use along with mammograms because it is widely available, non-invasive,and less expensive than other options. However, the effectiveness of an ultrasound test depends on the operator’s level of skill and experience.