We provide rapid access to detailed diagnostic testing. Depending on your symptoms and age, this will involve a clinical examination by a breast surgeon or specialist breast care nurse, a mammogram and an ultrasound scan. Some patients are offered further assessment if required, usually a needle biopsy.
A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray examination of the breast. Fine detail is very important in picking up subtle breast abnormalities. To assure the best quality image, the breast is held very still by the use of a degree of compression between two plates. Some patients find this a little uncomfortable, but the procedure is fairly quick. The digital mammography equipment is operated by a radiographer and then a consultant radiologist interprets the results.
An ultrasound scan uses a high frequency sound wave, inaudible to people, which is produced by a hand held probe, the size of a microphone, to create a different breast image. This is often used in addition to a physical examination by a surgeon or breast care nurse, which alongside the mammogram, completes the ‘triple assessment’ of a patient with breast symptoms. The examination is performed by a sonographer or consultant radiologist while you are lying down. Some jelly is applied to the skin and a probe is passed over the breast to produce a picture on the screen.
Ultrasound guided biopsy
After your initial assessment, you may require a needle biopsy. This involves taking a needle sample of a breast lump under local anaesthetic and is performed usually under the guidance of the ultrasound scanner or mammogram machine. This procedure can be performed by a surgeon or radiologist and can take between 10–30 minutes. It is a minor procedure but it may cause some bruising or a dull ache for 24-48 hours.