Women and physicians alike understand that standard mammogram screenings are the key to detecting and preventing breast cancer. Indeed, mammograms remain the staple for detecting early breast cancer. It is only when a patient or their doctor discovers an abnormality in breast tissue or when standard screening tests remain ambiguous, is a patient referred to a radiologist for additional testing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths and the most prevalent cancer among women in the United States.
Breast ultrasound and MRI are two significant kinds of diagnostic imaging that are often utilized as a consultant or second opinion of breast cancer testing to catch this fatal disease in its early stages. The main objective of these diagnostic evaluations is to determine whether an abnormality is cause for concern and if a biopsy procedure is necessary.
Breast ultrasound is composed of the use of sound waves to create images of different tissue types. It can precisely identify fluid-filled masses (benign cysts) from solid masses that could be malignant. Moreover, it displays other traits that radiologists use to determine whether a specific finding is cause for alarm. Ultrasound can also be used to guide a physician during biopsy procedures.
Physicians often recommend that their patients undergo an ultrasound to assess suspicious lumps found during a physical exam. In most cases, those "lumps" represent normal tissue rather than cancer, but it's important and much more reliving to be safe than sorry.
MRI is a much more expensive and multifaceted test that utilizes magnetic field and radio waves to create images of different parts of the body. Breast MRI can precisely detect cancerous masses, even those smaller than a bean, in nearly 100 percent of cases. However, some benign masses can imitate cancer on an MRI, and lead to further testing.
The American College of Radiology's guidelines for the use of breast MRI consists of the following:
■ Determining the extent of newly diagnosed cancers to help guide the most effective treatment;
■ Searching for cancer when a patient displays enlarged lymph nodes under the arm;
■ Monitoring the effectiveness of chemotherapy;
■ Assessing for recurring or remaining breast cancer after surgery;
■ Screening for women at high risk of developing breast cancer, including those with certain genetic tendencies.
As soon as mass that is cause for alarm has been detected, a physician may recommend a biopsy procedure. A small incision is made in the skin, and a portion of the mass is removed and sent for testing. Lab results will reveal whether the mass is malignant or benign.
A biopsy, in conjunction with diagnostic testing, will guarantee that the physician develops the most effective treatment plan for a patient's state of affairs. This combination of testing will ensure a minimal number of surgical procedures, as well as better cosmetic outcomes.
Institutions that specialize in breast cancer provide a variety of imaging tests. Radiologists who have been trained and have had considerable experience in the field of breast imaging are qualified to determine the best course of testing and treatment for each individual patient.