Breast imaging is a hugely important cancer prevention method. Women will primarily get mammograms, and those who are at an especially high risk of cancer are recommended to also get MRIs. These scanning tools will hopefully detect cancer at its earliest stages, before it’s begun to spread throughout the breast tissue and beyond it. But when it comes to breast imaging, what does your doctor look for?
First off, the only way a doctor can really confirm if something is cancerous or not is by doing a biopsy. Breast imaging by itself basically points out things that look suspicious in the breast tissue and that would warrant further investigation or monitoring. So keep in mind that even if the scan detects some kind of growth or suspicious tissue, it doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer; there are different benign conditions that could account for what the scan picks up.
These mineral deposits in the breasts can come in different forms. Macrocalcifications are generally nothing to worry about as indicators of cancer; they usually result from aging or some inflammation of the tissue. Microcalcifications, on the other hand, are more of a concern, though they don’t always indicate cancer either. If the microcalcifications look suspicious in some way, such as taking on a certain pattern in how they’re deposited in the breasts, your doctor may order a biopsy.
Breast MRIs are powerful and sensitive tools, but they can’t detect microcalcifications; that’s in large part why you need to keep undergoing mammograms, even if you also get a breast MRI done.
Different kinds of masses
Imaging can pick up on some sort of mass or growth in the breast. Sometimes these are benign cysts, or sacs filled with fluid. A mammogram may not be able to show a difference between a regular cyst and a more solid growth, so when doctors aren’t sure, they may use an ultrasound to help differentiate between the two. Cysts can also be of a more complex nature, not just filled with fluid, in which case they’re more likely to warrant a closer look.
There are also solid masses, which could be benign growths or perhaps a cancerous tumor. Again, usually the growths are benign, but it’s crucial to have them investigated.
In general, when it comes to any kind of mass, doctors will look at its shape, size, and other attributes on the scan image, as some patterns are more worrisome than others. Sometimes a biopsy won’t be conducted; instead a doctor may just make note of a mass to make sure it’s checked again in future scans. That’s why it’s important to keep track of all your imaging results, as sometimes doctors will check up on the same growth that’s been in the breast tissue for years, to be sure it hasn’t changed in any way.
Be sure to contact us with more questions about what breast imaging will reveal and what your doctors will be looking for. If you’re due for a mammogram or MRI, don’t skip it. Imaging is a powerful preventative tool that will possibly save your life.