Breast Imaging

Breast ImagingFinding breast cancer at its earliest stages gives you the best chance for a cure. Breast Imaging at UMass Memorial Medical Center offers today’s most advanced technologies to detect breast lumps long before they can be felt.

Our breast imaging specialists – radiologists with extra training in imaging this part of the body – also perform image-guided biopsies and other procedures to help determine if a breast lump is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Mammograms and Other Breast Imaging Tests Available at UMass Memorial

Today, there are several different types of breast imaging exams used in detecting and diagnosing breast cancer. We offer all the latest types, including:

  • Mammography – A type of X-ray done on the breast. It is very good at viewing little deposits of calcium (calcifications) that can be an early sign of cancer.
  • 3D mammography (tomosynthesis) – Like a mammogram, but shows the breast tissue in multiple layers. It’s helpful in assessing women with dense breast tissue.
  • Breast ultrasound – Often used to determine if a breast lump is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass.
  • Breast MRI – Can detect parts of the breast that have abnormally high blood flow (a sign of cancerous growth). Also used to screen patients at high risk of getting breast cancer, to detect how far cancer may have spread in the body, and to assess breast implants.
  • Breast CT – UMass Memorial is one of a handful of centers in the world trying a new, experimental way of breast imaging using CT, which is able to detect both areas of high blood flow (like MRI) and calcifications (like mammography).

Breast Biopsy Procedures

Our breast imaging specialists perform several procedures to help diagnose suspicious breast changes:

  • Ultrasound-guided biopsy – Performed if a mass (lump) can be seen on ultrasound.
    • If the mass is fluid-filled, the radiologist uses a thin needle to get fluid sample (fine needle aspiration).
    • If the mass is solid, the radiologist uses a larger, hollow needle to obtain a tissue sample (core biopsy).
  • Stereotactic biopsy – Performed if a mass can be seen on a mammogram but not ultrasound. The radiologist uses either a core needle or a vacuum-assisted device that helps pull tissue inside the needle.
  • Needle localization – Often done before surgical removal of breast tissue. Using mammography or ultrasound, the radiologist locates the suspicious tissue and inserts a needle that guides the surgeon in the operating room (OR).
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy injection – Before surgery, the radiologist injects a radioactive material and/or dye near a known tumor. The first place these substances drain is the sentinel lymph node. In the OR, the surgeon uses a device to detect radioactivity or looks for dye-stained lymph nodes. The nodes are sent to pathology to check for signs of cancer.