What are the Different Types of Breast Cancer Scan?

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  • Written By: N. Swensson
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2018
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There are a number of different types of breast cancer scan. The most common type is probably the mammogram, which may be used to detect possibly cancerous tumors. Many women have a mammogram at regular intervals as a preventative measure. Another kind of breast cancer scan is an ultrasound. It may be used to tell whether a mass found during a screening mammogram is benign or cancerous. Other types of testing are currently being evaluated for their effectiveness in detecting breast cancer. These include breast tissue sampling, also called biopsy, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

A mammogram, which is the most popular screening test for breast cancer, involves taking x-ray images of the breast tissue to detect abnormalities or pre-cancerous cells. Although many women complain that mammograms are inconvenient and painful, having them regularly may help to detect breast cancer early, which makes the disease easier to treat. Different studies have led to some conflicting information on the effectiveness of mammograms. For most people, a doctor or other medical professional is the best resource for advice on how to begin having this type of regular breast cancer scan.


Ultrasounds are another type of diagnostic test for breast cancer, but they are not often used as a routine preventative test. If an abnormality is found in the breast during a screening mammogram, an ultrasound may be used to help determine if it is cancerous. Like a mammogram, this type of breast cancer scan creates a picture of the breast tissue, but it uses sound waves instead of x-rays to do so. Sometimes these pictures can help to show the difference between a benign cyst and a cancerous tumor.

Research is ongoing to determine whether other diagnostic methods are effective for detecting breast cancer. Some studies have found that MRI is more effective in finding tumors than a mammogram. Other information, however, suggests that MRI results are more likely to suggest abnormalities, even when no cancer is present. MRI technology may also be helpful in evaluating the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment.

Several types of biopsy are also being studied to see whether they can detect breast cancer or pre-cancerous cells in the breast fluid. In some cases, they may also be able to predict a person's likelihood of developing breast cancer. Biopsies are currently used similarly to ultrasound to evaluate whether an abnormality is benign or cancerous.



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