Screening for and diagnosing breast cancer is carried out with the help of Breast Imaging. Breast imaging involves different technologies and techniques that aim to detect cancer in its earliest stages.
At Cayman Islands Surgery Center, we offer breast ultrasounds done in house, and review the full spectrum of breast imaging techniques with our international teleradiology team to all Grand Cayman residents and visitors concerned about breast cancer. Our general surgeon, Dr. Tanja Ebanks, has extensive experience herself in diagnosing and treating breast conditions and reviewing results from breast imaging is part of every consultation.
What Is Breast Imaging?
Breast imaging is the use of diagnostic imaging to screen for and diagnose breast cancer. Often the first sign of breast cancer is a palpable lump, usually discovered during a self-exam or a Clinical Breast Exam. However, breast imaging can detect breast cancer even before there is a palpable mass.
Previously known as fibrocystic breast disease, the condition is no longer referred to as such. Instead, we know it is something normal, like menstruation and menopause.
Most women who have the condition notice that these breast changes occur before their period, likely because the condition is driven by hormonal shifts. This may also explain why the condition is less common in postmenopausal women. However, women on hormone replacement therapy may also experience these changes.
The condition is generally harmless. It does not increase your risk of cancer or pose other health risks. But it can cause severe discomfort in some women and make it harder for doctors to detect cancer.
The three main types of breast imaging available are:
A mammogram is an X-ray procedure done to screen for and diagnose breast cancer. The Cayman Islands as well as the American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging recommend that women at average risk of breast cancer start their mammography at age 40 and then every two years or as recommended by their doctors. While mammograms do expose the breasts to ionizing radiation, it is only at a very low dose. Modern machines use low radiation while providing high image quality.
A mammogram can detect microcalcifications, which can be one of the earliest signs of precancerous cells. It can also help rule out or confirm breast cancer, sometimes paired with other imaging techniques. However, this imaging technique may not be suitable for younger women or women with dense breast tissue or breast implants.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An alternative to mammography is a breast MRI scan. Women with dense breast tissue and at high risk for breast cancer may have false negative results with traditional mammography scans. In such cases, an MRI scan provides a clearer picture. A breast MRI uses powerful radio waves and magnetic fields to see past dense breast tissue and detect potential problems that mammograms may miss. When MRIs are used in tandem with mammograms for women in this category, early detection of cancer is much more likely. Breast MRIs can also be useful in staging diagnosed cancer to help doctors determine the most effective treatment protocol.
A breast ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of breast tissue. Unlike X-ray imaging, it poses no long-term risk since sound waves have minimal effect on tissue. We frequently recommend breast ultrasounds in conjunction with other imaging techniques to achieve an accurate diagnosis. During a breast ultrasound, a sonographer moves a hand-held probe across the breast to get images of the entire breast. A radiologist reads your findings and sends them to your referring doctor. A breast ultrasound is recommended for younger women and women with dense breast tissue, since it is more accurate in these patients. If your doctor detects anything unusual, they may recommend a breast ultrasound to help see if the lesion is benign or cancerous.
How Do I Prepare?
Breast imaging is relatively safe and painless, with no downtime needed. This is why preparation is rarely required prior to your appointment. However, it is a good idea to have the following in mind before your breast imaging procedure:
- Tell your doctor if you’ve noticed new changes in your breasts, if you are breastfeeding or if you think you may be pregnant.
- Try to schedule your exam after your period when your breasts are not tender and swollen. This can help reduce discomfort and provide clearer imaging. MRI scans are usually done between day 7 and 14 in your cycle.
- Do not wear deodorant, lotion, perfume or other cosmetic products on your breasts or your armpits on the day of your appointment. Cosmetic products can appear as white specs on some breast imaging exams and can be mistaken as microcalcifications, a possible early sign of cancer.
- Wear something that you can easily remove for your breast exam (for example, a button-up top or blouse) to help you undress from the waist up.
Tell your provider if you have kidney problems or have any metallic implants (clip, stent, pacemaker, IUD) if you are undergoing an MRI scan. Your provider must know your medical history and current health to ensure your safety.
Getting Your Results
You will receive your preliminary breast ultrasound results on the same day as your appointment. A radiologist will interpret your results and Dr. Ebanks will contact you to discuss them, and a written report and the images will be available to you upon request
Request an Appointment at Cayman Islands Surgery Center
If you are concerned about your risk of breast cancer or your doctor believes you should undergo breast imaging, contact Cayman Islands Surgery Center today. Dr. Ebanks will meet with you and determine your best imaging options. Call our office today at +1 345 946 0067 to request a consultation. You can also fill out our online contact form to have a staff member call you at a more convenient time. You can message Cayman Surgery directly at email@example.com.
Is breast screening painful?
Most women find breast screening to be uncomfortable rather than painful. You may feel slight pressure during a mammogram, for example, as the plates press against your breasts. An MRI scan can be tiring because it requires that you be still for extended periods of time. But overall, breast screening isn’t painful.
What if I have breast implants?
X-rays cannot pass through silicone or saline implants very well, which makes mammogram imaging difficult. Your radiologist may need to take multiple pictures from different angles to get better imaging. An MRI scan or Ultrasound may be a better alternative. Breast imaging can also help your doctor detect implant ruptures.
Can you drink water before breast imaging?
Yes, you can drink water, eat and take your medication as you normally do before breast imaging. Unlike an Abdominal Ultrasound, there’s no need to have a full bladder or empty stomach before this exam.
Is there any risk of radiation exposure with mammograms?
Mammograms expose your breasts to low doses of radiation. Experts believe the benefits of regular cancer screening far outweigh any risks associated with low levels of radiation exposure.
Is breast imaging covered by insurance in the Cayman Islands?
If you are insured, you are covered according to your benefits for mammograms and other breast imaging procedures. We accept all local health insurance to ensure our patients get the treatment they need. We will check your benefits and get precertification before we schedule an ultrasound appointment.