Both screening and diagnostic mammograms are performed with digital technology. This technology produces computerized images instead of traditional film, giving physicians a better view with the ability to adjust the image to aid in diagnosis.
The latest technology in breast imaging is 3D tomosynthesis. Digital breast images are viewed in stacks of very thin layers or slices — building what is essentially a three-dimensional mammogram. This allows radiologists to see breast tissue detail in a way never before possible. Instead of viewing all the complexities of the breast tissue in a flat image, the doctor can examine the tissue a millimeter at a time, resulting in a more precise image.
Breast ultrasound is a noninvasive exam that uses sonar technology to determine if a suspicious area is filled with fluid or a solid mass, thus determining whether further testing is needed.
Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most advanced diagnostic tool available. Since 1991, MRI has aided in the diagnosis of breast cancer by using powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of the breast. It is often used after the results of a mammogram are reviewed.
The American Cancer Society also suggests that women with a “high risk” of developing breast cancer pair mammograms with breast MRI scans. Since many factors contribute to the definition of “high risk,” women should consult their physicians about whether breast MRI is necessary for them.
Additional breast diagnostic tools include biopsy (ultrasound guided, stereotactic and MRI), cyst aspiration, ductogram, needle localization and lymph node biopsy. The need for these procedures is determined by the breast radiologist, often in conjunction with primary care physicians and surgeons.
Bone densitometry testing is just one tool to help women monitor their health and fight osteoporosis. Bone density tests, called DEXA or dual-energy X-ray absorption, measure bone mass to determine whether you have osteopenia or osteoporosis and are at risk for a fracture. A physician referral is required for bone density testing.