Breast Tests and Investigations

In addition to our skilled consultant breast surgeons and breast care nurses, we have highly trained, dedicated consultant breast radiologists and pathologists who aim to get results to you as quickly as possible.  The speed of test results depend on which tests have been authorised, but some can be provided in 24 hours.

This ensure that you and your consultant get the right information quickly without you having to endure an anxious and prolonged wait for your results.

The different tests that we offer are:

  • Mammography - this is a type of scanning that uses low-dose x-rays to examine the breast.  It is used to help identify breast cancer in its early stages as it can find cancers that are too small to feel.  During the mammogram, the radiologist will position your breasts in a mammography unit.  Your breast will be placed on a special platform and compressed with a paddle.  This is necessary so that all the breast can be x-rayed.  The radiologist will then walk behind a screen and activate the x-ray.  The whole procedure will take around 30 minutes. 
  • Ultrasound - this is a painless test which uses sound waves to build up a picture of the breast.  For an ultrasound scan you will be asked to lie on a table, usually facing upwards.  A clear gel will be applied to the breast, which helps the machine to make secure contact with the body.  The radiologist will move the handheld scanner around to see the problem area.
  • Core biopsy - this is a commonly performed procedure that uses a needle to take a piece of tissue from the lump or abnormal area when larger samples of tissue are needed.  Core biopsies are usually undertaken using ultrasound to guide the doctor to the lump.  Local anaesthetic is injected into the area first to numb it.  You may feel a little soreness or a sensation of pressure, but this should last only for a short time.  The breast tissue may be quite bruised and sore afterwards and this may take a few weeks to completely disappear.
  • MRI - your consultant may decided that an MRI scan is necessary to provide further information.  This is a painless, non-invasive diagnostic imaging procedure which uses a strong magnetic field to create a detailed image of your breast.  You will be asked to lie down on your tummy and your breasts will be placed into the correct position by a female radiographer or nurse.  Usually, a small injection of a contrast medium is injected through a vein in your arm to highlight certain structures within the breast tissue.

Fine Needle Aspiration (using a needle and syringe to take a sample of cells from the lump) is only occasionally performed to diagnose the cause of the lump.  Core biopsy is the most accurate test and is therefore the preferred method of obtaining a diagnosis.

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© Spire Healthcare Group plc (2016)