Services » Mammography
Canterbury Breastcare is a centre that offers a uniquely supportive environment where women receive a complete breast health care service under one roof. Canterbury Breastcare combines the skills of a range of specialists and health professionals who are committed entirely to breast health care - from screening and diagnostic breast imaging to the integrated management of breast problems.
The multi-disciplinary team comprising Radiologists, Surgeons, Oncologists, Pathologists, Breast Nurse Specialists and Radiographers (MRTs) delivers a caring and professional service to assess all your breast concerns efficiently at one site. Once a diagnosis is made, appropriate treatment options can be discussed and offered. This may include surgery or on-going surveillance and clinical management.
Canterbury Breastcare is equipped with state of the art equipment, offering full-field digital mammography. In partnership with Pegasus Health, forming a joint venture called BreastScreen South Ltd, Canterbury Breastcare is also the provider of these services to BreastScreen Aotearoa for the National Breast Screening Programme in the central/northern part of the South Island.
A Screening Mammogram is a breast x-ray and is used to look for possible breast cancer when you have no signs or symptoms of breast disease. Mammography can detect tiny changes in your breasts which you may not have noticed. These changes may be due to cancer and may be smaller than a grain of rice. Early detection and treatment of small cancers greatly increases your chances of cure.
About 1 woman in 10 will develop breast cancer at some time in her life. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, 70% of breast cancers occur in women over 50 years of age.
The benefits of screening mammography have been proven in large international trials. Yearly mammography is recommended for women 40-50 years of age. Women over the age of 50 years should have screening mammography every two years. It may be appropriate that women with a family history of breast cancer start mammography at an earlier age, or have annual mammography.
Diagnostic Breast Imaging means looking at a specific area of your breast that is worrying you or your doctor. This includes:
- a thickening or a lump
- skin dimpling or ulceration
- nipple discharge
- persistent nipple rash
- non-cyclical or focal pain
Most of these changes will not be due to cancer, but you should see your doctor as soon as possible to arrange the necessary tests. Generally this involves both mammography and ultrasound of the breast. This type of mammogram can be done at any age but ultrasound may be performed first in women under thirty-five years of age.
Even though your imaging may be normal, your doctor may send you for further tests, e.g. biopsy or aspiration. If appropriate this may be arranged at the same visit.
Screening Ultrasound is another method used to image the breast. Ultrasound is a painless procedure, which involves a scanning probe passed over the breast. It is important to understand screening ultrasound does not replace screening mammography.
In contrast to screening mammography, breast ultrasound has not been validated in the medical literature for screening the general population (scanning asymptomatic normal risk women looking for early signs of breast cancer). There are reports in the literature showing it is useful for women at increased risk of developing a breast cancer (family or personal history of breast cancer, BRCA gene carriers), and in those women who have shown very dense glandular tissue on Mammography.
Its main advantages include absence of radiation enabling its use in younger women, and lack of discomfort associated with the procedure.
Its main disadvantages are that it is not as good as mammography at finding small breast cancers and pre-cancerous lesions, and it tends to show more benign lesions than mammography, some of which may require a biopsy to prove they are benign.
Screening Mammography uses small amounts of ionising radiation to produce an x-ray. Compression of the breast is necessary which may be uncomfortable for some women. Mammography produces high spatial resolution, resulting in good detail. Ultrasound is a painless procedure, which involves a scanning probe passed over the breast. Ultrasound cannot provide as much detail as a mammogram. Microcalcifications are not able to be seen on ultrasound, and these may be the first indications of breast cancer. Ultrasound is easily able to differentiate between fluid filled structures (cysts) and normal breast tissue.
It is not always possible to determine from imaging tests whether an abnormal area is benign or cancerous. A biopsy can determine this result. When this area is too small to be palpated, an image-guided biopsy is performed. Under local anaesthetic, a small amount of tissue is removed for examination by a pathologist under a microscope.
- Ultrasound-guided Core Biopsy : Ultrasound imaging is used to guide the radiologist to the appropriate site for biopsy.
- Stereotactic-guided Core Biopsy : A stereotactic localisation device attached to the mammography machine is used to guide the radiologist to the appropriate site for biopsy.
- Vacuum Assisted Biopsy : These systems use minimally invasive techniques to remove tissue which may previously have required admission for surgery. The technique is performed under ultrasound or stereotactic guidance.
Most breast lumps will be detected on mammography or ultrasound. Some abnormalities can be palpated but remain undetected on imaging. In this situation, a fine needle aspiration (FNA) is often performed.
Canterbury Breastcare has six very experienced surgeons who have all specialised in Breast surgery. They are available for clinical consultation and/or surgery. If surgical intervention is required, this is arranged at a mutually suitable time with your surgeon, either at St George's Hospital or Southern Cross Hospital. Our Breast Nurse Specialists help facilitate the surgery arrangements for you and will provide a full estimate of fees for your surgery. They are available to answer any queries you may have pre and post-surgery. Post-op visits will be arranged at Canterbury Breastcare following discharge from hospital.
Surgical intervention includes a comprehensive range of surgical procedures for all breast conditions, from excision of benign lesions to Wide Local Excisions and Mastectomies for breast cancer.
Canterbury Breastcare has two very experienced oncologists. Some patients require further treatment following their surgery. This is generally determined after the final analysis of specimens taken during surgery. There are several types of treatment available, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone treatment. All options are discussed during an initial consultation with your oncologist at Canterbury Breastcare. Treatment may be carried out at the St George's Cancer Care Centre.
We also have a Plastic Surgeon available to see patients with queries regarding breast asymmetry, breast reductions and implant-related issues.