Breast imaging and diagnostic services at Regions Hospital

From advanced diagnostic breast imaging to comprehensive cancer care, our team is here to give you exceptional treatment, guidance and support. The Regions Hospital Breast Health Center sets the standard of breast health services offered in Saint Paul and throughout the Twin Cities.

In addition to exceptional diagnostic services, we collaborate with surgeons and other breast care specialists to provide comprehensive treatment. As part of Regions Hospital, all of your breast care is under one roof. We’ll be by your side throughout every step of your care and recovery.

The breast health services we provide at the Breast Health Center include screening, diagnosis and treatment. Our radiologists, nurse practitioners, technologists and breast specialists are all together at one location. We offer the best breast care treatments that are scientifically proven to be effective at diagnosing and treating breast cancer, including 3D mammography.

If you have a diagnostic appointment, you’ll receive the results the same day. We provide screening results as quickly as possible, usually in 1-2 business days. Radiologists at the Breast Health Center have special expertise in diagnosing and screening for breast cancer and other conditions.

Breast health services we offer

We offer a wide range of breast imaging and breast care services, including diagnostic and treatment services. We’ll guide you toward the right treatments for you and create a personalized treatment plan based on your unique needs.

Screening mammography

A mammogram is an exam or study that checks for changes in the breast. During a mammogram, we’ll compress your breasts so we can check all of your tissue. We’ll take images of your breast to check for abnormalities.

3D screening mammograms, also called breast tomosynthesis, are available at the Breast Health Center – we were Minnesota’s first health care system to use 3D imaging technology for mammograms. While 2D breast imaging is still the standard of care, 3D imaging is available to help get a closer look at dense breast tissue and other areas of concern. 3D screening mammograms are available upon request and for women with dense breast tissue.

Mammograms can be a little uncomfortable for some people, but most find mammograms to be more comfortable than expected. If you’re concerned about your screening appointment, let us know. We’ll listen to how you’re feeling, let you know how to prepare for a mammogram and talk with you about your questions and concerns.

Talk with your doctor about when to start regular screening mammograms. Depending on your personal risk of breast cancer, your doctor might recommend screening mammograms beginning in your 30s.

Diagnostic mammography

If you or your doctor notices a lump, unusual skin appearance or other symptoms, you’ll be scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram at the breast center. During a diagnostic mammogram, we’ll take images with special attention to the area of concern so we can get a closer look at your breast tissue. Diagnostic mammograms are often paired with breast ultrasounds to give us more detailed information about your condition.

In most cases, a radiologist will provide the results of your diagnostic test during your appointment. If additional care is needed, we’ll help you schedule a follow-up before you head home.

Breast ultrasound

We may recommend a breast ultrasound to help diagnose various breast conditions. During an ultrasound, we’ll place a small device that produces soundwaves against your breast. The soundwaves bounce off your tissue to help us get a clearer understanding of the abnormality in your breast.

We can also use breast ultrasounds to help guide our doctors during breast biopsies and other procedures.

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A breast MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create a detailed picture of the inside of your breasts. We often use breast MRIs after a patient has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The images can help us determine the spread of cancer or how well treatment is working.

During a breast MRI, you’ll lie down on a table that is specially designed for breast imaging. This table will slide into a machine that looks like a large tube. Sometimes, we’ll administer a contrast solution to help abnormalities appear on the MRI. On average, you’ll spend about 20 minutes in the machine during a breast MRI appointment.

A breast MRI can also be used to screen patients at high risk for breast cancer. This includes people with a family history of breast cancer or who have had radiation to the chest.

Breast biopsies

A breast biopsy is a procedure where we remove a small piece of abnormal breast tissue or a lesion in order to examine it in a lab. Breast biopsies are often needed to check if a lesion is cancerous.

We might use an ultrasound or a mammogram (stereotactic biopsy) to guide us during the biopsy. This helps us remove the tissue as quickly and safely as possible. When we use image-guided biopsies, we’ll insert a small marking clip into the area of concern so we can easily find it again.

Depending on your symptoms, we may use the following types of breast biopsies:

Core needle biopsy

A core needle biopsy may be recommended to examine a lesion in your breast. During a core needle biopsy, we’ll use a thin, hollow needle to remove breast tissue so we can examine it in our lab. We may need to take multiple samples of the same lesion in order to get enough tissue to examine.

A core needle biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure. You’ll be able to leave the Breast Health Center shortly after we finish the biopsy. We’ll use lidocaine to numb your breast and keep you as comfortable as possible during the procedure. Most people only feel slight pressure while we take the tissue samples. During the biopsy, we’ll add a small marker, also called a clip, to the lesion. This helps us identify the lesion on future imaging tests.

We might use an ultrasound, MRI or mammogram to help guide the needle during the biopsy. After the biopsy, you’ll likely have another mammogram. This will be done with light pressure to keep you comfortable.

You’ll typically see the results of your biopsy the next business day.

Open biopsy

Occasionally, we may recommend an open breast biopsy, sometimes called a surgical biopsy, with one of our surgeons. An open biopsy is a surgical procedure where we’ll surgically remove all or part of the lesion in your breast. An open biopsy may be used in the rare case that the results of a core needle biopsy are inconclusive.

To guide our surgeons, we might use a localization procedure prior to the open breast biopsy surgery. You’ll be put under anesthesia during this procedure to keep you as comfortable as possible.

It can take 3-5 days to get the results of an open biopsy. Your doctor will contact you to go over the results.

Additional breast care services

As part of Regions Hospital, we can provide additional breast health services under the same roof. For when you need extra care, we offer:

  • Cancer care: Our breast health team partners seamlessly with our oncology team. You’ll continue your care with nationally recognized cancer experts who will develop a treatment plan personalized to your specific needs.
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery: Our skilled breast plastic surgeons work with your breast health care team to help you feel like your best self.

Breast Health Center high-risk program

If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, you may be referred to our high-risk program. This program was designed for people who have a family history of breast cancer or have other risk factors that increase their likelihood of developing breast cancer.

During the high-risk program, one of our nurse practitioners will evaluate your risks. Then we’ll create a care plan tailored to your unique needs. This care plan may include personalized genetic testing, more frequent screenings and advanced preventive care options. We will connect you with an oncologist and a genetic counselor, if needed.

We will share this plan with your primary care doctor so everyone’s working together to manage your future care needs.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

You don’t need a referral to visit the Breast Health Center for screening mammograms, but you do need a referral for diagnostic care.

If you notice a lump in your breast or other concerning symptoms, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. We’ll check your symptoms and refer you to the Breast Health Center if diagnostic breast health services are needed.

If you have a diagnostic mammogram, we’ll discuss your results with you during your appointment. After we explain your results, we’ll answer any questions that you might have.

You’ll also get your written results by letter or in your HP online account one business day following your appointment.

If you have a screening mammogram, you’ll typically receive your results in 1-2 business days.

Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, glandular tissue and fibrous connective tissue. Women who have dense breasts have a higher amount of glandular and fibrous connective tissue. About half of women have dense breasts. This is normal, but it can make it difficult to see masses and other abnormalities on mammograms. A radiologist will describe your breast tissue in your mammogram report, letting you know if you have dense breasts.

If you have dense breast tissue, a 3D mammogram may be a better choice for you. Talk with one of our technologists if you would like a 3D mammogram or have questions about dense breast tissue.

Dense breast tissue slightly increases your risk for developing breast cancer. It can also make it more difficult to spot abnormalities during mammograms. The mammography we use at the Breast Health Center improves our ability to examine dense breasts. We also offer 3D mammograms which can be a more effective option for women with dense breasts.

Regular screening mammograms are still important if you have dense breast tissue. Mammograms are the only imaging test found to decrease deaths caused by breast cancer. If you have concerns about dense breast tissue and your risk of cancer, speak with your doctor to decide if additional screenings are right for you.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.

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