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Breast Cancer Screening

Early detection is a key factor in fighting breast cancer. At the Abramson Cancer Center, our specialized radiology team uses the latest technology to provide a personalized, comprehensive evaluation. Our goal is to identify cancer in the earliest possible stage.

Breast Cancer Screening: Why Choose the Abramson Cancer Center?

We are at the forefront of breast imaging.

  • Imaging experts: Our board-certified radiologists specialize in breast imaging. Their expertise ensures you get a precise assessment, reducing the need for additional imaging. Meet our breast imaging team.
  • Leaders in advanced breast imaging: As a leader in the field of breast imaging, we were early adopters of both breast MRI and 3D mammography. The breast imaging experts who oversee your clinical care are leaders in research. They help create the breast imaging guidelines used by radiologists around the country. Learn more about breast imaging at Penn.
  • Personalized screening: We use the latest imaging technology to provide an accurate evaluation for every woman. Women with dense breast tissue who require additional screening but do not qualify for a full MRI are candidates for our abbreviated breast MRI (Fast Breast MRI).
  • Screening close to home: We offer expert breast cancer imaging at Penn Medicine locations throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Our radiologists and breast cancer specialists collaborate across the network to provide you with best care possible, no matter where you live.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Regular screening helps us detect cancer early, even before you may notice breast cancer symptoms. Early diagnosis improves survival. To know when and how to get screened for breast cancer, it's important to check with your primary care provider or OB/GYN and know your breast cancer risk.

The American Cancer Society screening guidelines for women at an average risk for breast cancer depend on your age.

  • Women between 40 and 44: May begin yearly screening with a mammogram.
  • Women 45 to 54: Get a mammogram every year.
  • Women 55 and older: Continue with an annual mammogram or switch to a mammogram every other year until your life expectancy is less than 10 years.

If you have a high breast cancer risk (20 to 25 percent or greater according to risk assessment tools), discuss your individual screening plan with your primary care provider or OB/GYN. Often, women at higher risk get a breast MRI as well as a mammogram every year, beginning around age 30.

How We Screen for Breast Cancer

Our radiologists understand the importance of diagnosing breast cancer early. Our in-depth knowledge and expertise provide you with results you can trust.

3D Mammogram

We rely on 3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, to look for cancer. This advanced technology uses low-dose X-rays to produce a three-dimensional picture of breast tissue.

A traditional 2D mammogram takes X-rays of the breast from top to bottom and side to side, while a 3D mammogram captures images in "slices" of the breast. The final images are more precise. They allow us to identify changes in breast tissue that may not be seen with a 2D image.

Typically, 3D mammograms cost the same as traditional mammograms and are covered by insurance. If you are uninsured or underinsured and over the age of 40, the Penn Medicine Breast Health Initiative offers free mammograms.

Breast MRI

When a mammogram does not supply enough information about your breast, our expert radiologists use breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). A breast MRI does not replace a mammogram. When used together, these tests offer more comprehensive evaluation for patients who need it.

Breast MRI is most commonly used for high-risk patients, but it may also be used for other reasons. An MRI is more costly than a mammogram. Check with your insurance company about coverage for a breast MRI before having the test.

FAST Breast MRI for Women With Dense Breast Tissue

FAST Breast MRI (also called Abbreviated MRI) is used in women with dense breast tissue in addition to a mammogram. A mammogram tends to be less sensitive in screening dense breasts. While not as comprehensive as a full breast MRI, abbreviated MRI takes only 15 minutes and provides in-depth screening in women with dense breasts.

Check with your health plan to see if your insurance covers this test. To qualify for a FAST Breast MRI, you’ll need to have:

Breast Ultrasound

We use breast ultrasound as a compliment to other screening tests or to investigate changes in the breast that can be felt but are not seen on a mammogram. This noninvasive technology uses sound waves to create images. If you are under the age of 30 and feel a lump in your breast, we may use ultrasound instead of a mammogram.