Diagnostic mammography is an X-ray examination of the breast in a woman who either has a breast complaint (for example, a breast mass, nipple discharge, etc.) or has had an abnormality found during screening mammography.
During diagnostic mammography, additional pictures will be taken to carefully evaluate the breast abnormality. In some cases, special images known as cone views with magnification are used to make a small area of altered breast tissue easier to evaluate. Many other types of X-ray pictures can be obtained, depending on the type of abnormality and its location in the breast. These X-rays are tailored to the patient's needs.
A diagnostic mammography work-up may show that a lesion (area of abnormal tissue) has a high likelihood of being benign (not cancer). For these, it is common to ask the woman to return earlier than usual for a recheck, usually in 4 - 6 months. On the other hand, a diagnostic mammogram may show that the abnormality is not worrisome at all and the woman can then return to routine yearly screening. Finally, the diagnostic work-up may suggest that a biopsy is needed to tell whether or not the lesion is cancer.
A recommendation for biopsy does not necessarily mean that the abnormality is cancer. About 70% of all breast lesions that are evaluated with biopsy are found to be benign when evaluated under the microscope. If a biopsy is recommended, the woman should discuss the different types of biopsy with her physician to determine which method of biopsy is best for her. We currently have a state-of-the-art stereotactic table for mammatone biopsies.