For women with dense breasts, an additional breast screening test after a mammogram may find cancer not seen on their mammogram alone.
Talk with your doctor or health provider about which one of these tests is right for you.
Cancer Detection by Screening Tests
|If 1,000 Women with |
Dense Breasts are Screened With:
|Number of Women Found
to Have Cancer is About:
|2D mammogram alone||5|
| 3D mammogram |
|2D Mammogram PLUS|
Common Breast Screening Tests
|2D Mammogram PLUS|
Other Breast Screening Tests
| Molecular Breast Imaging |
| Contrast-enhanced |
Rev. August 2022
There are several things to consider when making a choice about an additional screening test. Additional screening may find cancers missed on your mammogram. But, that testing may also find things that need even further testing – and that turn out not to be cancer (known as a false positive).
- Ultrasound is the most common additional test used after a mammogram. Ultrasound uses sound waves and does not involve radiation or an injection into your vein. Gentle pressure is applied to the breasts and rarely causes discomfort. An ultrasound screening takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) involves injection of a gadolinium contrast solution into your vein that may feel a little cold while it is injected. You lie on your stomach and your breasts fit into two openings. The contrast-enhanced MRI is done in the tunnel of a large magnet. The magnet makes loud noises while generating images. Contrast-enhanced MRI does not use radiation and takes from 10 to 25 minutes.
- Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) involves injection of a radioactive agent into your vein. About 5 minutes after the injection, each breast is placed between two detectors, similar to a mammogram but with less pressure. An MBI test takes at least 40 minutes. MBI is not yet widely available.
- Contrast-enhanced mammogram (CEM) requires injection of iodine-based contrast into your vein. This is the same contrast used in CT scans. It makes you feel warm all over and you may even feel like you might pee on yourself. After about 2½ minutes, you will have a mammogram. A CEM test takes about 10 minutes. CEM is not yet widely available.
For more information, see Q+A #26: “What are other breast screening tests after my mammogram?” here.
- 5 Facts Every Woman Should Know
- Video Series: Let’s Talk About Dense Breasts
- Patient Risk Checklist (print)
- Patient Questions and Answers