It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month – what do you need to know?

October 4, 2017

Screening mammography is the use of digital images to aid in the early detection of breast cancer.  The interpreting radiologist reviews these images for signs of malignancy. To be an effective tool, mammography should be performed on an annual basis beginning at age 40.  Studies have shown an up to 30% reduction in mortality from breast cancer when women participate in an annual screening program.

This service is offered at the Mammography Place (828-286-5380) and may be scheduled by the patient without need of a doctor referral. The patient is asked to provide a doctor’s name to receive their report.  All women beginning at age 40 are candidates for screening mammography provided they have no current signs or symptoms of breast disease.  Women with breast disease (lumps, nipple discharge, pain or other breast complaints) should see their physician to determine the need for a diagnostic mammogram at the hospital.

Breast biopsy is a procedure performed by a doctor during which a small amount of tissue is obtained for diagnosis.  Most biopsies are done following discovery of an abnormality on an imaging test such as a mammogram, ultrasound or MRI. A biopsy may also be needed when a lump is discovered.

The procedure is typically done on an outpatient basis using local anesthesia (numbing medicine).  Most biopsies are performed with some form of imaging guidance.  When the lesion is seen best by ultrasound, an ultrasound probe may be used to guide a biopsy needle into the abnormality.  In other cases, such as microcalcifications, which can only be seen on a mammogram, the use of a special stereotactic mammography unit is required to accurately position the needle.  Both of these modalities are available at Rutherford Regional Medical Center.

The amount of discomfort associated with breast biopsy is typically small although some soreness and bruising may be noted for several days.  The patient is allowed to go home immediately following the procedure and may resume normal activities the next day.  The results are usually available several days following the procedure for the doctor to discuss with the patient.