Breast imaging

What is breast imaging?

Breast imaging is a specialty of diagnostic radiology. It includes a range of imaging procedures and technologies to detect, screen and diagnose breast cancer. If cancer is detected, these tests help doctors find the type of cancer and determine the locations and stage of the cancer.

Types of breast imaging

  • Screening mammography: These examinations are used to detect breast cancer via a low-dose X-ray before any symptoms are evident. This allows for early treatment and intervention.
  • Diagnostic mammography: These examinations use X-rays for diagnoses when symptoms are present. The mammogram confirms whether the changes are non-cancerous and whether breast cancer may be present and treatment is needed.
  • Breast tomosynthesis: This is a new digital mammography technique that produces 3D images of the breast using X-rays.
  • Breast ultrasound: These can differentiate between cysts and solid lumps, which may or may not be cancerous.
  • Breast MRIs: Breast MRIs are used to identify early breast cancer in women who are at high risk. They also help determine the extent of any breast cancer that is diagnosed.
  • Stereotactic biopsy: A stereotactic biopsy is a type of biopsy that can help to diagnose cancerous cells in breast tissue. Using a mammography machine, a radiologist uses two images of the breast tissue to take a sample of tissue for testing.

When do I need to go for breast imaging?

Whether you need breast screening is a decision between you and your doctor. If you're over 40, speak to your doctor about when you should begin breast screenings. Some doctors recommend starting at age 40, while others recommend starting before 40. The decision to go for breast screenings also depends on your individual risk factors.

How to prepare for breast imaging

  • Do not wear lotion, deodorant, or talcum powder on breasts or under the arms on the day of the examination
  • The Radiographer will ask you for a short medical history before the examination.
  • You may be requested to remove some or all jewellery before the examination
  • You will be given a gown to wear prior to the examination.