Mammograms, breast MRI, ultrasound
Alfredo Nino, MD, is medical director of the Laura Dreier Breast Center at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz.
Question: At various times I have had mammograms, breast MRI and ultrasound tests as part of my breast health checks. How do these differ, and which offers the radiologist the best information?
Answer: Mammograms are very important and should not be overlooked as “less important” because of the development of more complex technology for breast imaging such as breast MRI.
Small focal areas of clustered microcalcifications seen on mammogram are not, in themselves, visible on breast MRI. In addition, a breast MRI report should include a review and comparison with the patient’s most recent mammogram images.
Breast MRI predominately evaluates any enhancing lesion/area in the breasts, chest wall, axillary regions, and potentially any “incidental” findings involving the aortic root or superior aspect of the liver imaged during this study.
There will be times when a questionable area on the breast MRI will need additional evaluation. It is at this time that a “second look ultrasound” can be quite helpful to resolve the area in question.
Ultrasound looks at the breast through the use of sound waves and this method can be very good at evaluating the internal architecture of a questionable lesion or area in the breast. All the different modalities (mammogram, ultrasound, and breast MRI) truly complement each other and are an important part of any complete review.
Reviewed February 2011