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Breast health screening guide: What you need to know

March 02, 2016

Breast health screening guide: What you need to know

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, excluding cancers of the skin. Women know it is important to have regular mammograms after a certain age, but with all of the opinions circulating on when screening should begin, how often screenings should be completed, and the different types of screens available, knowing what's best for your breast health can be confusing or even overwhelming.  

Kettering Breast Evaluation Centers is the most experienced center for breast care and imaging in the greater Dayton area and provides over 54,000 breast screens to women each year. We are committed to your health and are here to help guide you through the screening process.

When should I get screened?
“At Kettering Health Network we believe that early detection is one of the best defenses against breast cancer, which is why we support the American College of Radiology’s recommendation that women 40 and above schedule a yearly screening mammogram,” says Kettering Health Network Director of Breast Imaging Mary Cockerham. “It is important to keep in mind that every woman is different and there are special circumstances when screening may begin at an earlier age.”

What kind of breast screen do I need?

Women who do not exhibit any signs or symptoms of breast cancer and who have never had a pervious abnormal mammogram should have a yearly screening mammogram.  

Screening mammograms are x-rays are taken of the breasts that show the structure of the breast tissue. All Kettering Breast Evaluation Centers use digital mammography—where x-rays are reported through a computer in sharper resolution and more detail. Digital mammograms are more effective than film mammograms in detecting cancer in women who are younger than 50 or who have dense breast tissue.  

What if my screening mammogram detects an abnormality?

If a screening mammogram reveals an abnormality, there are additional tests and procedures that are performed to further assess the breast tissue. The procedure your physician orders depends on your individual needs.

Diagnostic mammograms are more involved x-rays taken of the abnormal spot found in a screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammograms can also be performed when a health care provider or patient feels a lump or change in the breast.

A breast ultrasound is a non-invasive exam that uses sound waves to create images of the breast tissue.

Breast MRI is a non-invasive test that uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses, and a computer to create detailed images of internal body structures.

Breast-specific gamma imaging (BGSI) uses a tracer fluid injected into the breast tissue, along with a specially designed gamma camera, to produce images of breast tissue. This procedure typically is used when a patient has an inconclusive screening mammogram, dense breast tissue, palpable masses that do not show up on a mammogram, and for other diagnostic purposes.

What if an abnormality is confirmed?

If an abnormality is confirmed in the breast tissue, it does not always mean that cancer is present. A biopsy of the abnormal tissue will be performed to determine whether or not it is cancerous. A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is taken from the body and evaluated in a lab to determine its cellular make-up.

A stereotactic breast biopsy is a procedure in which mammographic x-rays are used to accurately guide a biopsy needle to the precise location of the abnormality in the breast. A small sample is then collected and sent to a pathology lab to assess.

An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy uses sound waves to locate the location of the abnormality, and then a tissue sample is collected and sent to a pathology lab to assess.

Why should I schedule a screening mammogram?

A screening mammogram is a quick process that allows you to be proactive in your health. Screening mammograms can potentially detect breast cancer in early stages—before it can even be felt by a woman or her doctor. Detecting breast cancer in earlier stages increases a woman's chances for positive treatment outcomes.

To find out more about scheduling your screening mammogram, click here.