Breast investigations and diagnostic tests

In addition to our skilled consultant breast surgeons and breast care nurses, our multi-disciplinary team also includes highly trained specialist consultant breast radiologists and pathologists who aim to get results to you within 24 hours or on the same day of your assessment. This ensures that you and your consultant get the right information quickly without having to endure an anxious and prolonged wait for your results.

Digital mammography (four views)

A mammogram is an X-ray examination that shows the internal structures of the breasts. Digital mammography differs from traditional mammography by converting the X-ray output into a digital image. The images are produced and assessed by the radiographer instantly, which means you spend less time being examined and there is less chance of images needing to be repeated due to over or underexposure.

The digital mammography machine is faster, so you spend less time in uncomfortable positions. Using digital mammography, the specialist is able to expand the image of the breast fully to detect even the smallest of problem areas. 


An ultrasound 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.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

Sometimes if you have a lump, the consultant may want to take a sample of cells for analysis. A fine needle aspiration (FNA) is a quick and simple procedure carried out in the out-patient clinic. Using a fine needle and syringe, your surgeon will take a sample of cells from the lump to see if any problem cells are present. Sometimes, especially if the lump is small, a fine needle aspiration may be carried out in the X-ray department so that the doctor can use X-ray or ultrasound guidance to ensure the needle takes cells from the abnormal area of the breast.

Core biopsy

Core biopsy 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 often 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. A number of biopsies are usually taken at the same time. The samples are then sent to the laboratory to be looked at by a pathologist under a microscope. Depending on the number of biopsies taken, the breast tissue may be quite bruised and sore afterwards and this may take a few weeks to completely disappear.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Occasionally, depending on the results of your mammogram and ultrasound images, your consultant may decide that an MRI scan of your breasts is necessary to provide further information. MRI 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 called Gadolinium is injected through a vein in your arm; this helps to highlight certain structures within the breast tissue.

If you need to have an MRI scan, please be reassured that our specialist MRI staff will explain the procedure carefully and ensure that you are comfortable throughout the procedure.

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Find out more about Diagnostic Services at Spire Bushey Hospital

Breast investigations and diagnostic tests at Spire Bushey Hospital

Read more about diagnostic services

Read more about our state-of-the-art CT scanner

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