Breast Imaging and Testing
At UNC Health Blue Ridge, we provide women and, though rare, men in our communities with the highest quality breast imaging services. We use advanced breast imaging procedures and technologies to provide you with the most accurate clinical information, helping our doctors make timely diagnoses and better tailor screening and treatment plans.
Complete, Convenient Breast Care
By trusting us with your breast health, you’ll receive personal and collaborative care, including:
- Access to local and skilled team of doctors, board certified and specially trained to interpret all types of breast exams and diagnose breast disease
- Convenient access to breast imaging services close to home
- Timely results for diagnostic mammograms and breast ultrasounds
- Late-evening appointments at many locations
- A dedicated breast health navigator at certain locations who provides support and education to those newly diagnosed with breast cancer
Our Advanced Technologies
- Digital 3D (tomosynthesis) mammography in Morganton and Hickory, Valdese and Marion
- MRI of the breast imaging and biopsy
- High resolution breast ultrasound
- Advanced equipment offers minimally invasive breast biopsies
Our Breast Services
Mammography takes X-ray pictures of the breast. This specialized test lets doctors see inside the breasts and detect any abnormal areas. There are guidelines for when women should have their first one, so check with your doctor.
Mammograms can be used to:
- Check for breast cancer in women with no signs or symptoms of the disease (called a screening mammogram)
- Look at a lump or other possible signs of breast cancer (called a diagnostic mammogram)
3-D mammography (tomosynthesis) is a new type of mammogram that shows cross-sections of the breast. It allows images to be taken of individual layers of the breast tissue; think of it as looking at a book, page by page. 3-D mammography is especially helpful for women:
- With dense breast tissue
- Who have a high risk of developing breast cancer
Breast ultrasound is a type of imaging that uses sound waves to examine the breast. In some cases, this exam may also be coupled with a diagnostic mammogram.
For this test, you will lie on an exam table. The person doing the ultrasound will place some gel on your breast and use a hand-held device that will move smoothly over your breast to take pictures.
Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the breast and surrounding tissue. A breast MRI provides a very detailed exam of the breast.
This test complements mammogram findings and is often recommended for women:
- At increased risk of breast cancer and
- After breast surgery and/or radiation
For this test, you will lie on your stomach with your arms stretched above your head. The person doing the MRI will position each breast to get the best visual picture.
Needle biopsies of the breast may be needed when a breast exam or mammogram shows a lump or other suspicious change in a woman’s breast tissue. To perform the biopsy, your doctor will use a thin, hollow needle – often guided by ultrasound or MRI, to take a small sample of the abnormal tissue and surrounding fluid. Local anesthetic is used to minimize any discomfort.
A few things to keep in mind about biopsies:
- Needle biopsies generally only take 30 to 45 minutes to complete and the recovery time is far shorter than a traditional biopsy
- Your medical team will give you special instructions or restrictions, depending on the type of biopsy you’re getting. For example, you may be asked to stop taking certain medications, like aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. In most cases, breast symptoms turn out to be benign (not cancer).
- Your doctor will explain the results.
What is a 3D biopsy?
A 3D-guided biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses X-ray imaging techniques to gather tissue samples from a breast abnormality. This biopsy technique is used to target and sample lesions which cannot be seen with standard 2D digital mammography but can only be identified with 3D mammography.
The 3D breast biopsy is the most advanced option available in breast biopsy, providing better access to areas that may otherwise be difficult or impossible to visualize. Unlike previous biopsy procedures where you must lie flat, the 3D biopsy allows you to sit up making it easier for some patients to have the procedure.