We offer many different kinds of breast imaging services at the Breast Place to help determine the health of your breasts anytime you come into our offices. Unsure of what the whole process is and if you'll need to experience one in the future? That is what we will be talking about today!
Welcome back, readers and warriors! We are so happy you have joined us today! With this beautiful spring weather that is starting to stick around here in the Lowcountry, we hope that you've had a chance to get outside and enjoy it! Keep staying safe and protected, and remember that allergy and flu season is still here. Please be conscious of all of your choices to help continue staying happy and safe. Our last blog was dedicated to mammograms and what to expect from the whole experience. Today, we are going to go a bit deeper and focus on the next step, all of the different kinds of breast imaging that are offered and what is offered at the Breast Place.
There are multiple ways to visualize the tissue within the breast and as technology changes, recommendations for screenings change every year. If you require breast imaging services, contact us for a consultation and recommendations for what kind of imaging we believe you need. Like we discussed in our last blog, mammography uses x-rays to look at calcification within the breast tissue. The newest technology is 3D mammography, also known as tomography. This imaging is recommended yearly for preventative health. Screening mammography is typically paid for by insurance under preventative services if the covered person falls within the contracted age range, but only once per year. Diagnostic mammography is used when there is a known problem within the breast. While we don't do mammography on-site, we work with almost all facilities in the area to order, schedule, and follow up on mammograms for our patients! If you would like to learn more about mammograms, please visit our last blog at:
After mammograms, the second type of breast imaging is done by ultrasound. Breast ultrasounds use high-frequency sound waves to see changes in breast tissue like the appearance of cysts. If you are unsure what breast imaging is right for you, contact us to schedule a consultation with a licensed provider for a clinical breast exam, a review of your personal medical history, and a recommendation on what imaging is appropriate for you. Ultrasounds are very safe, they are non-invasive, and they do not use radiation. They can be used to show the composition of the breast and what the blood flow is like in any area that has been the cause of concern in your breast. An ultrasound can help doctors determine what their levels of suspicion should be when it comes to their previous findings and what the ultrasound has discovered.
The whole procedure requires very little preparation on the end of the patient. Please leave any jewelry at home, and we recommend that you wear comfortable clothing for the exam. Just like a mammogram, you will be asked to undress from the waist up and wear a gown for the procedure. During the procedure, a device called a transducer is moved over your breast, and it sends out sound waves that bounce off your breast tissue. These sound waves are at too high of a frequency for you to hear during the exam. The waves that bounce back are picked up by the transducer and create a picture of the inside of your breast. Another device called a Doppler Probe can also be used during this process. This probe will let your doctor hear the sound waves that are sent out through the breast, and they will hear how fast your blood is flowing through the blood vessels in your breasts. Faint sound or no sound at all might mean that you have a blockage in the blood flow through your breast, and could require more tests to find out why this is happening.
The third type of imaging you might experience is an MRI. An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, uses a strong magnet to measure the uptake of activity in areas of the breast tissues to look for abnormalities. A contrast solution is administered to identify abnormal areas within the breast tissue. Breast MRI is a common modality for patients considered high risk. During a breast MRI, the machine will capture multiple images of your breast. Once they are all taken, the images will be combined by a computer to create detailed pictures. An MRI is sometimes used when a woman has already been diagnosed with breast cancer. The MRI will help measure the size of the cancer, will look to see if there are any other tumors in the breast, and will see if there are any other tumors in the other breast. MRI can also be used to screen for cancer. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer will also receive an MRI along with their yearly mammograms for extra protection. An MRI can detect other forms of cancer that can sometimes be missed by a mammogram.
Women who have dense breasts have a higher risk for breast cancer. Up to 20% of breast cancers cannot be seen on traditional imaging if you have dense breasts. If you have been told you have dense breast tissue or have a question about the density of your breast tissue, contact us for a consultation for a breast exam and recommendations for screening. Dense breasts themselves have higher amounts of glandular tissue and fibrous connective tissues and relatively low amounts of fatty breast tissue. The only way to show if you have dense breasts is through a mammogram, it cannot be felt in a self-exam or an exam by your doctor. According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly half of all women that are 40 and over that get mammograms have dense breasts. Dense breasts can be inherited but can also be caused by using postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy and by having a low body mass index. Having children and as you grow older can cause the density of your breasts to lower. The denser the breast, the harder it is to receive clear readings from a mammogram. This can cause women to be called back in for more tests or screening as mammograms on women with dense breasts can miss cancer, putting them at higher risk. There are four different levels of breast density; almost entirely fatty, scattered areas of fibroglandular density, heterogeneously dense, and extremely dense. Heterogeneously and extremely dense categorized breasts are considered to be dense breasts.
Women aged 40 and older are recommended to have annual mammograms. "Abnormal mammograms" can have many causes. Patients who have abnormal mammograms should have further evaluation. If you have ever had an abnormal mammogram or are being told your breast imaging is abnormal, it is recommended that your mammogram exam is followed up with a visit to a specialist. Contact us for a consultation with a dedicated breast specialist to include a clinical breast exam, a potential ultrasound in the office, cyst aspiration, biopsies, or breast MRI ordering if indicated. Please remember too, as we mentioned in our last blog, not all abnormal findings on your mammogram mean that you have cancer. It could be a calcium build-up, a benign condition, a cyst, a harmless lump, dense breast tissue, or a non-cancerous tumor! Also, distortions can happen on a mammogram too, causing inaccurate results. This might just mean you have to come back for clearer images to be taken. If you've had an abnormal mammogram you might have further tests done like a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound, MRI, or a biopsy. A biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure where a small amount of tissue is removed from the area in question for further tests. There are fine needled biopsies, core needed biopsies, and surgical biopsies. Also note that scar tissues can often appear white on a mammogram, which at first look can be alarming. Please make your doctor aware of any scarring on the breast before your mammogram.
There is more to caring for your breasts than just getting a yearly mammogram or giving yourself a monthly self-breast exam. All of us at the Breast Place want to make sure you know the extent that goes into caring for your breasts at all points in your life and what to expect once you begin getting mammograms. This knowledge can prepare you for the overall experience, what it can feel like, and what your results may or may not lead to. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us or schedule a consultation! We are here for you, warriors! Let's keep fighting together one day at a time!