Breast Cancer Prevention

4 Screening Tools That May (Or May Not) Be Your Breast Friends

July 29, 2022
Screening Techniques

There are a lot of different techniques out there when it comes to breast cancer screening and diagnosis. From ultrasounds and mammography to exams using contrast (contrast enhanced mammography and MRIs) and thermography, you have tons of options. BUT are they all accurate? Do you need more than one performed? Let’s find out!

What Exactly Is Breast Screening?

Breast screening is pretty much what it sounds like. We check for breast cancer in order to protect our breast health. And when it’s time to start that process, our health care providers should inform us of the options available. Keep in mind that sometimes you could need more than one procedure and your breast density and risk factors play a big role in which option is best.

Informed and shared decision-making is the next step. It refers to going through the benefits and risks with your health care provider and then together deciding which option is right for you—and when to do it.1

Breaking Down the Different Types of Breast Screening

1. Mammography
a. Mammograms are essentially X-rays of the breasts. Early detection through annual mammograms, like the Genius® 3D MAMMOGRAPHY exam, is the best tool available in the fight against breast cancer.2 When cancers are detected in their earliest stages, they are typically easier and less costly to treat and associated with better outcomes.2 If you haven’t scheduled your annual mammogram yet, now’s the perfect time. Find a Genius exam near you today.

b. There are two types of mammograms: 2D and 3D. If you’ve had a conventional 2D mammogram before, you’ll that find the experience is comparable to 3D mammography exams. BUT 3D mammograms produce a more detailed view. That means doctors can see the tissue from multiple angles, reducing the need for call-backs or extra testing if anything unusual is found.

2. Breast MRI
a. Breast MRI, aka magnetic resonance imaging, uses radio waves and strong magnets to make detailed pictures of the inside of the breast.2 MRIs are typically used for screening of high-risk patients or for diagnosis of areas difficult to see under mammography.3

b. Unlike mammograms or breast ultrasounds, breast MRIs require a contrast dye be injected into your vein (through an IV line) before the pictures are taken. This helps make any abnormal areas in your breasts easier to see.3 To learn more about what it’s like to get a breast MRI done, check out this great source.

3. Contrast Enhanced Mammography
a. Contrast Enhanced Mammography, aka CEM, also requires that a contrast dye be injected. However, the exam is conducted using the same mammography equipment as a traditional mammogram. Patients generally prefer CEM to MRIs.

b. Like MRIs, CEM exams are typically used for diagnosis or screening high-risk patients.

4. Thermography
a. Thermography is a noninvasive tool that uses an infrared camera to produce images (thermograms) that show the patterns of heat and blood flow on or near the surface of the body.4 The idea behind this test is that, as cancer cells multiply, they need more oxygen-rich blood to grow. When blood flow to the tumor increases, the temperature around it rises.5

b. While thermography is technically a breast screening tool, it’s far from the best one out there and isn’t really recommended. Why’s that?

i. The FDA says there’s no valid scientific data to demonstrate that thermography devices, when used on their own or with another diagnostic test, are an effective screening tool for any medical condition including the early detection of breast cancer or other diseases and health conditions.4
ii. It’s not very sensitive to picking up breast cancer. It also has a high false-positive rate, which means that it sometimes indicates that something may be cancerous, but in fact there aren’t any cancerous cells present.5

5. Ultrasound
a. Breast ultrasound uses sound waves and their echoes to make computer pictures of the inside of the breast. It can show certain breast developments, like fluid-filled cysts, which can be harder to see on U.S. mammograms.6 While they’re not typically used as a routine breast screening tool, they’re useful when doctors need to tell the difference between those cysts (which are very unlikely to be cancer) and solid masses (which might need further testing to be sure they’re not cancer).6

b. What’s it like to get an ultrasound done? The American Cancer Society breaks down the exact process here!

Breast Screening Can Save Lives

Breast screening helps save lives by catching breast cancer earlier, when it’s more treatable. With all of this info on the different types, you can feel prepared to talk to your doctor about your options. After all, knowledge is always your very *breast* friend.

Disclaimers: The content in this piece is for information purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please contact your medical professional for specific advice regarding your health and treatment. This information may be relevant in the U.S. and other markets and is not intended as a product solicitation or promotion where such activities are prohibited. Because Hologic materials are distributed through websites, eBroadcasts and tradeshows, it is not always possible to control where such materials appear. For specific information on what products may be available in a particular country, please write to womenshealth@hologic.com.
The Genius® 3D MAMMOGRAPHY™ exam (a.k.a. Genius® exam) is acquired on the Hologic® 3D Mammography™ system and consists of a 2D and 3D image set, where the 2D image can be either an acquired 2D image or a 2D image generated from the 3D image set. The Genius exam is only available on the Hologic 3D Mammography system. Please consult your physician for a complete list of benefits and risks associated with mammography.
Hologic, 3D, 3D Mammography, Genius, The Science of Sure, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Hologic, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries.