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Breast Tests

Breast Tests / Investigations

There are three main types of investigations for detecting breast cancer: mammography, ultrasound and MRI.


Mammography is the best tool for early detection of breast cancer. It is the only tool proven by large scientific studies to reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer.

When you have a mammogram your breast is compressed and held between two plates while a very low dose of radiation passes through it. Our radiology colleagues at Ascot Radiology use the latest digital mammography. A digital mammogram uses less radiation and produces higher-resolution picture than earlier mammograms – and makes the procedure more comfortable!

If mammography reveals any abnormality, dense breast tissue or other symptom, you will also be given an ultrasound scan.


When a mammogram shows an abnormality, ultrasound can provide further information about what is happening in your breasts. But it is not a substitute for a screening mammogram.

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to detect different types of tissue in your breast, such as benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) lesions. If the ultrasound reveals an abnormality, your doctor will probably advise you have a biopsy. There are two ways of performing a biopsy – guided by ultrasound (fine needle or core biopsy) or guided by mammogram (stereotactic core biopsy).

A fine needle or core biopsy can be performed on the same day, but you will usually have to make another appointment for a sterotactic core biopsy.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI can also be very useful for breast imaging in some circumstances. It takes detailed pictures of your breast by using a powerful magnetic field. It does not replace mammography or ultrasound, but provides another tool for breast specialists to obtain additional information.

Breast MRI can be used to:
  • See how large a cancer is, or if there are multiple cancers (particularly in dense breast tissue), helping your breast doctor plan the best treatment.
  • Help in the early detection of breast cancer for women who are at very high risk of developing breast cancer.
  • See if breast implants are leaking or damaged.


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