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Diagnostic Mammography

Notice: Revised breast cancer screening guidelines issued in November 2009.

What is Diagnostic Mammography?

Diagnostic mammography is an x-ray exam of the breasts that is performed in order to evaluate a breast complaint or abnormality detected by physical exam or routine screening mammography. Diagnostic mammography is different from screening mammography in that additional views of the breast are usually taken, as opposed to two views typically taken with screening mammography. Thus, diagnostic mammography is usually more time-consuming and costly than screening mammography.

The goal of diagnostic mammography is to pinpoint the exact size and location of breast abnormality and to image the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. In many cases, diagnostic mammography will help show that the abnormality is highly likely to be benign (non-cancerous). When this occurs, the radiologist may recommend that the woman return at a later date for a follow-up mammogram, typically in six months. However, if an abnormality seen with diagnostic mammography is suspicious, additional breast imaging (with exams such as ultrasound) or a biopsy may be ordered. Biopsy is the only definitive way to determine whether a woman has breast cancer.

What Types of Views are Taken with Diagnostic Mammography?

Typical views for diagnostic mammograms include the cranio-caudal view (CC), the medio lateral oblique view (MLO), and supplemental views tailored to the specific problem. These can include views from each side (latero medial, LM: from the side towards the center of the chest and mediolateral view, ML: from the center of the chest out), exaggerated cranial-caudal, and other special mammography views such as spot compression and magnification views. Click here to learn more about how mammography is performed.

Cranio-caudal & mediolateral oblique view Latero medial view Medio lateral view
Cranio-caudal (CC) view and mediolateral oblique (MLO) mammographic view Latero medial (LM) mammographic view Medio lateral (ML) mammographic view