Breast Screenings and Procedures

The St. Jude Kathryn T. McCarty Breast Center provides exceptional services for routine screenings, the early detection of breast cancer and other breast conditions. By combining the expertise of breast specialists with advanced technologies we are able to provide you with quicker, safer and more accurate diagnosis of breast cancer and conditions.

Our team of highly trained physicians and technologists offer:


Only 20 percent of breast lumps are cancerous, but that doesn’t make the experience of getting a breast biopsy any less overwhelming. At the St. Jude Kathryn T. McCarty Breast Center, our staff is uniquely sensitive and compassionate to each woman’s needs during her biopsy.

Specializing in Minimally Invasive Breast Biopsies

Every breast biopsy targets only the suspicious breast tissue, without affecting the rest of the breast. In fact, 90 percent of breast biopsies can be obtained in a minimally invasive manner without an incision or general anesthesia.

The radiologist will recommend the most minimally invasive procedure possible depending on the size and location of your mass.

  • Fine needle breast biopsy - When the mass is easily felt by the physician or easily seen on ultrasound, a fine needle biopsy may be recommended. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area and a fine needle is used to withdraw enough tissue for examination by the pathologist. This procedure is performed by a radiologist or surgeon. Sometimes, lymph nodes in the armpit can also be assessed this way.
  • MRI-guided biopsy - During this kind of biopsy, your dedicated breast radiologist uses MRI technology to pinpoint the tumor and removing enough tissue to ensure the pathologist can make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy - Core Needle or Vacuum-Assisted Stereotactic breast biopsy is performed when the breast lump is so small that it cannot be felt during an exam or if suspicious microcalcifications were seen on a mammogram. You will lie on a table on your stomach, with your breast dropping through an opening to allow for the breast to be biopsied. While mammography paddles compress the breast, the image is projected on a computer screen. A special needle designed to obtain tissue samples is guided to the suspicious areas. Several samples will be taken and images will confirm that an adequate amount was removed for examination by the pathologist. A radiologist performs this procedure.
  • Ultrasound-guided core biopsy - This kind of breast biopsy is performed when the lump is palpable during an exam or if it is easily seen on an ultrasound. Using ultrasound to locate the mass, a fine needle or vacuum-assisted device is used to withdraw tissue samples for examination by the pathologist.

Computer-Assisted Detection (CAD)

St. Jude Kathryn T. McCarty Breast Center offers an advanced diagnostic tool designed to help in the fight against breast cancer. Our dedicated radiologists utilize Computer-Aided Detection (CAD), to further analyze mammograms. This sophisticated technology does not replace the radiologist who would normally read the mammogram; it merely acts as a "second opinion" for the physician.

CAD is designed to alert physicians to take a closer look at subtle warning signs. CAD serves as an additional tool for early detection of breast cancer, which is particularly important since early detection may help save lives.

CAD is simply part of the mammography-reading process on screening procedures.

Digital Mammography

Mammography remains the gold standard for screening for detecting breast cancer. Many breast centers still use analog mammograms, meaning the images are printed on film. However, we combine the experience of highly trained technologists, and dedicated radiologists with the latest digital mammography and technologies to better serve our patients’ needs.

Screening Mammograms vs. Diagnostic Mammograms

It is important that you understand the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram

Screening mammograms - Annual screening mammograms are recommended for women who are 40 years or older, or for younger women with specific risk factors for breast cancer. You don’t have to have any signs or symptoms of a breast abnormality in order to receive a screening; they are used for the early detection of breast cancer and other breast health issues. Eighty percent of tumors found during a mammogram are benign.

Diagnostic mammograms - You will be referred for this type of mammogram if you have a breast mass or other breast abnormality (found during a breast self-exam or by your physician), or if you have other symptoms of changing breast tissue. All diagnostic procedures require a physician’s order.

After your mammogram, a radiologist who specializes in breast imaging will read your mammogram and notify your physician of the results. The results will also be mailed directly to you.

Additional procedures after a mammogram

Nationally, approximately five to 15 percent of women who have a screening mammogram will be called back for additional imaging. If you are asked to return for another screening, it is important to remain calm. Additional imaging usually results in benign findings. Should the need arise, we have a dedicated breast nurse who is uniquely qualified to answer your questions.

Additional procedures may include:

  • Biopsy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

For most women, mammograms are the only screening technology they will ever need for monitoring their breast health. Women with suspicious masses or fibrous breast tissue can expect to have an ultrasound, and possibly a MRI.

Breast MRI is very sensitive and is useful for assessing cancer. It is also used to assess high-risk patients who have more than a 20 percent chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetimes based on genetics (BRCA1 and BRCA2) and strong family history of breast cancer. Since it is such a sensitive technology, benign findings may be detected on MRI. This can cause the patient unnecessary anxiety.

If a MRI detects a suspicious lesion that isn’t recognizable and doesn’t correspond to anything visible on the mammogram, then a second-look with ultrasound is recommended. If visible, the lesion may be biopsied, under ultrasound guidance; if not, it may need to be biopsied under MRI guidance.


With breast ultrasound, the breast tissue is viewed using sound waves instead of X-ray. This allows the radiologist to differentiate between a solid mass (benign or malignant tumors) and a liquid mass (cyst).

We offer state-of-the-art technology, but it’s not just the sophisticated equipment that’s important-it’s the healthcare professionals performing the procedure and interpreting the results. Our technologists are highly trained and are credentialed Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Our radiologists have devoted their careers to breast imaging and their experience determines the future breast health of thousands of women annually.