Diagnostic Mammography for Evaluating Breast Cancer

Diagnostic mammography is an x-ray exam of the breasts that is performed to evaluate a breast complaint or abnormality detected by a medical test or routine screening mammography. Diagnostic mammography is usually recommended for women who are experiencing symptoms that may be related to breast cancer. Diagnostic mammography is different from screening mammography in that additional views of the breast are usually taken, as opposed to two views typically taken with screening mammography, thereby making the process more time-consuming and costly as compared to screening mammography.

Diagnostic mammography is usually recommended for women who are experiencing symptoms that may be related to breast cancer, such as:

  • A lump in the breast or under the arm
  • An area of thickening
  • Skin changes, such as redness, dimpling or thickening
  • Nipple changes, such as inversion, retraction, erosion, weeping and itching
  • Spontaneous nipple discharge
  • A change in breast size
If any abnormality is detected on the screening mammogram, diagnostic mammography may be recommended.

The key aim of diagnostic mammography is to identify the exact size and location of breast abnormality and to image the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. Although diagnostic mammography cannot provide a definitive diagnosis of breast cancer, but it can be used to determine whether breast abnormalities have a high probability of being benign or whether a biopsy should be performed to determine if cancer is present. If the doctor observes any abnormality, he may recommend the patient to visit at a later date for a follow-up mammogram, typically in six months. In case an abnormality seen with diagnostic mammography is suspicious, additional breast imaging exams such as ultrasound or a biopsy may be ordered. Biopsy is the only best way to determine whether a woman has breast cancer.



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