Breast Cancer Detection Technologies, Tests and Tools

Various tests may be used to diagnose breast cancer or for follow-up testing after the cancer has been diagnosed. Tests can be in the form of biopsy, blood, genetics, images or the tumor. Not every person will have all of these tests, and some imaging tests are not recommended if there are no signs that the cancer has spread.

Several other alternative screening techniques are available or are undergoing testing for future ways to detect breast cancer in women with dense or large breasts, younger women and women that have other conditions or health problems that prohibit the use of a regular mammogram.

Mammogram: A compression x-ray of the breasts.

MRI: Magnets and radio waves produce a 3-D image of the breast. A contrast due may be injected in the vein to help track potentially cancer tissues.

Ultrasound: Sound waves make a picture of the breasts and the glandular and underlying tissues.

Breast Specific Gamma Imaging: A non-compression type mammogram that shows if there is more blood flow going to cancer cells.

Tomosynthesis: A form of digital mammography takes multiple x-rays and creates a 3-D picture of the breast, allowing doctors to see between layers of tissue.

PEM: Positron emission mammography uses a small amount of radioactive tracer dye injected into the body during the PEM scan to image the breast.

All these extra imaging techniques are not meant to replace mammogram but rather act as extra tools for women at increased risk, and in some instances, to help avoid unnecessary biopsies.