Mammography exam

The goal of breast cancer screening is to find cancer at the earliest possible stage, before it causes symptoms or pain and when it is easier to treat.

At UChicago Medicine, our board-certified radiologists provide the full range of image interpretation and image-guided procedures to uncover signs of disease, including:

  • Traditional digital mammography, breast ultrasound and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • 3D mammography, which takes multiple images of the breast
  • Automated whole breast ultrasound, which decreases the need for a woman to return for more evaluation after her initial screening test

Much of our radiologists' work is integrated with colleagues in our Breast Center — medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons and pathologists. This collaboration includes performing procedures to better identify the precise location of a tumor for patients who need surgery; using MRI to monitor patients undergoing chemotherapy before surgery (called neoadjuvant chemotherapy); and performing screening for patients who have a strong family history of breast cancer or a genetic predisposition to cancer.

More Options for Women with Dense Breast Tissue

Approximately 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue, which can obscure small tumors, making them difficult to detect with mammography. Whole breast ultrasound, can be used along with mammography to examine dense breast tissue. Our highly experienced radiologists are experts in determining when whole breast ultrasound or other screening tests may be necessary.

Hereditary Breast Cancer Risk & Prevention

Between 5 and 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary and are caused by mutations in a person's gene. UChicago Medicine offers a comprehensive breast cancer risk and prevention program for patients who may have inherited a gene mutation associated with breast cancer (e.g. BRCA1 and BRCA2). Our oncologists work in tandem with board-certified genetic counselors to help patients understand the risks and benefits associated with genetic testing, guide them through appropriate screening and prevention options and provide more information for their family and their care.

Guidelines for Breast Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society recommends the following breast cancer screening guidelines for most women:

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (X-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screening.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
  • All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.

Discuss with your health care provider:

  • Any changes to the normal shape and feel of your breast
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Your risk of breast cancer and the best screening plan for you

Understanding Your Breast Cancer

Understanding the biological makeup of breast cancer is an important first step to beating this disease. UChicago Medicine's breast cancer program includes board-certified pathologists who focus their practice on benign and malignant breast diseases. Dedicated pathology assistants ensure specimens are prepared effectively for fast and accurate pathology results. These results play a key role in informing treatment planning.

Beyond the initial pathology results, our pathologists provide crucial insight and expertise in the multidisciplinary treatment of breast cancer patients.

Stacy Lindau, MD, talking with a patient

Program in Integrative Sexual Medicine (PRISM) for Women & Girls with Cancer