Types of Exams
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts. All mammograms are fully digital, meaning an electronic image of the breast is taken and stored in our computer system. In a routine screening mammogram, two pictures of each breast are taken. To achieve the best images possible using the least amount of radiation, the breasts are compressed briefly during the exam.
For a small percentage of screening mammograms, the radiologist may request that the patient return for additional imaging to better evaluate a particular area. Most of the time, these additional images show nothing of concern. It is important for the radiologist to compare your current mammogram with prior studies, so please either bring in any prior mammograms or let us know where they were performed so we can request them.
Digital breast tomosynthesis (3-D mammography)
The latest advancement in digital mammography, tomosynthesis provides a three-dimensional (3-D) image of the breast. The 3-D image shows the inner structure of the breast, making it easier to see abnormalities and reducing the need for additional imaging. The 3-D mammogram is performed with the breast positioned in the standard fashion and takes only a few seconds to obtain the image, so the mammography experience will seem the same as a standard mammogram. We use the latest 3-D technology available, so having a 3-D mammogram at our facility does not require any additional radiation compared to a standard (2-D) digital mammogram.
Breast ultrasound uses sound waves to image areas of concern. The technologist will ask you to lie down and will place some warm gel on the breast before scanning. Breast ultrasound can also be performed as a screening study of both breasts to supplement mammography in women with dense breasts.
For additional information about screening in women with dense breasts or in women at high risk for breast cancer, you may find it helpful to speak to our nurse practitioner or refer to: http://www.breastdensity.info/. This website was created by a consensus of physicians in California in response to legislation requiring women to be informed about their breast density and Rhode Island enacted very similar requirements in 2014.
Breast MRI is an advanced imaging technique used as a problem-solving tool and for supplemental screening in women at high risk. All breast MRI performed at Lifespan are interpreted by specialized breast imaging radiologists.
For additional information about screening in women with dense breasts or women at high risk for breast cancer, you may find it helpful to speak to our nurse navigator or refer to information at http://www.breastdensity.info/
Breast needle biopsy
A biopsy (a collection of breast tissue) may be performed to further examine an abnormality that is seen on a breast imaging test. In most cases, the area needing biopsy is not cancer, and biopsy can help determine that with certainty. Biopsy requires little recovery time and no significant scarring.
Cyst or fine needle aspiration
If a breast cyst is causing pain or we need to confirm a lump is indeed a cyst, a cyst aspiration may be performed. We use an injection of local anesthesia to numb the area and place a small needle in to the lump to remove the fluid. A similar technique with a small needle (fine needle aspiration) can also be used to extract cells for evaluation under a microscope. There is no special preparation or recovery.
Second opinion/consultation services
If you or your doctor would like us to review any current breast imaging studies performed at another facility, your doctor can order a consultation, and we will review your images and make a recommendation. We will also review images and provide consultation on biopsy requests from outside facilities. Our nurse navigator can assist with the process and any questions.