Early Detection of Breast Cancer Could Save Your Life

Detecting breast cancer early is critical - the National Cancer Institute places the five-year survival rate at 100 percent if breast cancer is caught in stage 1. That’s why breast self-exams, mammograms and other detection methods are so important for women – especially women over 40. Although there has been some controversy regarding screening frequency in the 40-50 age group, the American College of Radiology, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Cancer Society strongly suggest screening every year beginning at age 40.

Mammography is not perfect. There are some cancers that can not be detected by mammography. Nevertheless, mammography remains the standard screening method for early detection of cancers. Large scientific studies in the United States and Europe have demonstrated that mammography detects early cancers and saves lives.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain and may cause no symptoms at all. Additionally, some breast cancers never cause symptoms or other signs of a problem until they have gotten quite large and are more likely to have spread.

There are some changes that women and men should watch for, including:

  • A lump or thickening (a mass, swelling, skin irritation, or distortion) in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • A change in the color or feel of the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple (dimpled, puckered, red, swollen, or scaly)
  • Nipple discharge, erosion, inversion or tenderness

The lack of early, easily identifiable symptoms makes regular breast exams and screenings essential to detect cancers as early as possible. Crozer-Keystone offers comprehensive breast imaging services, including the following breast imaging modalities.

To request an appointment at one of our locations, call 1-866-5-CK-XRAY (1-866-525-9729) 24 hours a day, seven days a week or request an appointment online.

Digital Mammography

Mammography uses X-rays to take images of the breasts. It is routinely done to determine if there are early signs of breast cancer. All of the mammography units in the Crozer-Keystone Health System use digital mammography. These units record images of breast tissue digitally, instead of on X-ray film. The advantages of digital mammography compared to traditional film mammography include:

  • Reduced exam time
  • Lower average radiation dose
  • Quality assurance: Technologists are able to check for image quality just seconds are acquiring an image, allowing the technologist to confirm image quality before the patient leaves the mammography room.
  • Visibility: For the radiologist, the system provides better visibility of the breast, particularly near the skin line, the chest wall and in women with dense breast tissue.

3D Mammography

Crozer-Keystone now offers 3D tomosynthesis or three-dimensional imaging technology. The GE SenoClaire 3D tomosynthesis solution uses a low dose x-ray sweep of the breast to create thin slice, digital images improving the detection of small breast masses and lesions. This technique is used in conjunction with conventional two dimensional mammography for the best diagnostic accuracy.

3D mammography is a new mammogram imaging technique which reduces the limiting effects of breast background density that may hide or obscure small breast cancers. By examining the breast in thinner portions or “slices,” the radiologist is able to see small lesions more clearly. This allows for more accurate decisions regarding the need for recall mammograms or biopsy.

Benefits of a GE 3D Tomosynthesis Mammogram include:

  • Increases cancer detection by increasing the conspicuity of small breast cancers and localizing them more accurately within the breast
  • Reduces the screening mammogram recall rate by eliminating recalls which are due to normal breast tissue
  • Improves specificity or differentiation of benign from malignant lesions

Advantages of 3D Mammography

A recent study found that 3D mammography significantly increases the chances of detecting breast cancer – detection jumps 27 percent when 3D mammograms are paired with standard 2D mammograms. The 3D imaging is also more accurate; there was a 15 percent drop in false positives compared to standard imaging.

A standard mammogram creates a single image each time the breast is compressed and an image is taken. So, there may be overlapping layers of tissue that are being shown on that image. This can create several problems for the radiologist interpreting the images--overlapping normal structures can sometimes appear to be a tumor. Perhaps more importantly, the overlap of normal tissue may actually obscure breast cancer. 3D mammography helps to mitigate some of these problems.

Breast MRI

Breast MRIs are a supplemental tool used in conjunction with mammography to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities. When an MRI is performed, the patient lies on a table within a large circular tunnel. The patient is expected to lie completely still during the procedure and may have a contrast agent injected during the procedure.

Ultrasound Breast Exam

Ultrasound imaging is done on a women’s breast to evaluate a mass that is either felt by your doctor or seen on a mammogram. The sound waves go into the patient’s body and bounce off the breast tissue, creating a picture on a TV monitor. These images are recorded and displayed as a real-time visual image. No radiation is involved in ultrasound imaging.

Needle Localization with Sentinel Node Mapping

Needle localizations are done using mammography or ultrasound, as part of the biopsy process. Once the patient has had a breast imaging procedure that has identified an abnormality, the patient is generally referred to a surgeon who specializes in breast surgery and who can determine the area of the abnormality to be biopsied.

Radiologists place a needle with a wire in the affected area to serve as a guide for the surgeon performing the biopsy. Sometimes, needle localizations are done with sentinel node mapping. In this case, a surgeon removes some lymph nodes when (s)he does a biopsy. The results of the node biopsy are used to help stage a cancer of the breast and help determine how to best treat it.

Request An Appointment

To request an appointment at one of our locations, call 1-866-5-CK-XRAY (1-866-525-9729) 24 hours a day, seven days a week or complete our online Appointment Request Form.

Don't Have Insurance?

Thanks to a generous grant from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Crozer-Keystone Health System offers free screening and diagnostic mammograms to women who do not have insurance or whose insurance may not cover these tests.