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We use a wide variety of tools and technologies to screen, detect, and diagnose breast cancer. If cancer is detected, these tests help our doctors find the type of cancer, as well as determine the stage and location of the cancer.
Mammography is the use of X-rays to create images of the breast. We perform screening mammograms for women without symptoms and diagnostic mammograms for women with areas of concern. Our dedicated mammography technologists pay special attention to optimal technique, body positioning, and breast compression to minimize your exposure to radiation during the mammogram.
Our typical mammogram includes tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography, which allows the radiologist to see through dense tissue to a greater degree than with 2-D mammography. This technique improves the chances of finding cancer early and reduces the risk of a false alarm.
Breast ultrasound is an imaging technique that uses sound waves to create images of breast tissue. Ultrasounds can reveal the tissue composition and blood flow in any areas of concern in your breast. This information helps our radiologists determine their level of suspicion regarding these findings.
Our breast sonographers (ultrasound specialists) have special training in performing breast ultrasounds to achieve the most accurate images. Breast ultrasound is a standard, painless additional test to evaluate areas of concern found on a mammogram or breast exam.
For women and men with a breast cancer diagnosis, and for those at high risk of breast cancer, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide the clearest, most detailed pictures of the breast. This radiation-free imaging technology creates 3-D images of the breasts that we use in screening, staging, treatment response evaluation, and pre-surgery planning.
At Stanford, we perform MRI exams on advanced 3 Tesla (3T) scanners. We offer a variety of comfort measures if you undergo this exam, which typically lasts around 45 minutes and requires you to lie still for best results. These measures include eye covers, warm blankets, noise-cancelling headphones, and anti-anxiety medication, as needed.
Image-guided breast biopsy
A breast biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure in which we remove a sample of breast tissue from your breast. Our skilled pathologists examine the tissue under a microscope to check for cancerous cells. We use the latest imaging technology to precisely pinpoint the biopsy area and to guide the needle to the same area. The size, shape, and location of the tumor determines which biopsy technique we use.