Susan A. Seedman MD, FACS, PC Aiding in the Fight Against Breast Cancer Breast Specialty Care
  Common Diagnostic Tests Used to Evaluate Breast Related Problems

Biopsy - removal of tissue from the breast to study it under a microscope and make a diagnosis (see section on office-based surgical procedures). This includes needle/ wire localization biopsies.

Bone Density Scan - measures the mineral content of bones to see if there is any evidence of osteoporosis (thinning of bones that may lead to fractures)

Bone Scan - uses radiation to show areas of the bone where the cells are unusually active. This activity may indicate cancer, trauma, infection or other disorders. A radioactive substance is injected into the veins and after a period of time images are taken by a special camera

Computerized Tomography (CT scan) - procedure in which cross-sectional images of the body are taken using specialized x-ray equipment. Intravenous or oral liquid may be given to help highlight changes in the organs

Ductogram (Galactogram) - a special type of mammogram that allows breast ducts to be seen in order to evaluate the reason for a persistent nipple discharge. Dye is injected through a tiny tube into the duct from which discharge has been seen coming out.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - a specialized computer system that uses large magnet radio waves to generate very detailed images of the body. It does not use radiation. Intravenous dye may be given to patients to enhance the images. It may detect tiny abnormalities not visible on standard x-rays.

Mammogram - special x-ray of the breasts recommended for all women over the age of 40 and for some younger women in specific circumstances.

Screening mammogram - performed on a yearly basis to check breast tissue for any changes since last mammogram.

Diagnostic mammogram - done to evaluate an area of concern more closely

Mammoscintigram (scintimammogram, breast specific gamma imaging/BSGI) - radioactive material is injected intravenously and a special camera used to look at areas of the breast where the radionuclide is highly concentrated. An increased level of activity is seen in cancers.

Positive emission tomography (PET) - medical imaging that displays a chemical process taking place inside the body. Radioactive dye is injected intravenously and followed as it is absorbed into the organ and tissue to be examined. The exam takes time and motion reduces the quality of the images.

Sentinel node injection (lymphoscintigraphy/lymphoscintigram) - procedure used to help identify the sentinel lymph node to evaluate it for the presence of cancer cells. The sentinel node is the lymph node nearest a cancer and the most likely to contain malignant cells if the cancer spreads. Radioactive material is injected intravenously into the breast near the tumor. The material moves through the lymphatic channels into the lymph nodes where it is detected with the help of a radiation counter. The lymph nodes containing the highest radioactive count are removed and sent for laboratory evaluation.

Ultrasound - a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the soft tissue organs of the body. It does not use ionizing radiation. It can help detect abnormalities such as cysts and benign tumors that may not be seen using some of the other imaging tests.