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Understanding my scans

Your specialist will decide the appropriate scan after taking a short history and performing a clinical examination.


Mammogram is the standard method of imaging for patients above the age of 40 and involves using Xrays to image the breast. We use digital mammography and usually take two views of each breast (vertical and oblique). Please inform us if you had a mammogram within the last 12 months. You may not need a mammogram if you had one in the last year. The advantage of mammograms is that they can check the whole of both breasts and allow the radiologist to compare left with right as well as comparing with previous mammograms.

Mammogram machine

Ultrasound scan

Ultrasound scan (gel scan): your specialist might decide that you need an ultrasound scan. This will be performed by one of our experienced radiologists or radiographers. The advantage of ultrasound is that it can be used in younger patients and to check an area of concern in detail. It can sometimes detect abnormalities that do not show up on mammogram.

Breast ultrasound machine


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is only used in certain circumstances, such as when a patient diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer is considering breast conserving surgery or when a breast cancer does not show up well on mammogram or ultrasound. The consultant radiologist will advise as to whether a MRI is required. MRI is very sensitive and frequently identifies areas of the breast that require further investigation such as "second-look ultrasound" or further biopsies.

MRI scanner

CT scan

Computerised tomography (CT) scans are rarely used in the initial diagnosis of breast cancer but sometimes a patient has a CT scan for another reason which detects an abnormality in the breast incidentally. In these cases, the doctor who organised the scan may refer the patient to Breast Care for clinical examination and mammograms or ultrasound scan as necessary.

A CT scan is sometimes useful after breast cancer has been diagnosed to look for any breast cancer deposits (metastases) elsewhere in the body. This is usually requested on the advice of the oncologists.