A breast scan is an imaging test to look at your breasts. It is used when a mammogram has not given your healthcare provider enough information.
A breast scan is a type of nuclear imaging test. This means that a tiny amount of a radioactive matter is used during the scan. The radioactive matter called tracer sends out gamma rays. These are picked up by the scanner to make a picture of your breasts.
The areas of the breast where the radioactive tracer collects in greater amounts are called “hot spots.” The areas that do not absorb the tracer and appear less bright on the scan image are referred to as “cold spots.” Cancer cells are usually the hot spots in a breast scan.
A breast scan can be helpful in diagnosing breast cancer in younger women. Younger women usually have denser breasts than older women. Denser breast tissue can also happen because of the following:
You may need a breast scan if the results of a mammogram are uncertain. Or your healthcare provider may use a breast scan along with mammography.
Your healthcare provider may order a breast scan if he or she thinks you have any of the following:
Your healthcare provider may also order a breast scan to see how well blood is flowing through your breast tissue.
If you have breast cancer, a breast scan can help figure out the stage of your cancer. Your healthcare provider may also use the scan as a follow-up after surgery, chemotherapy, or other breast cancer treatment.
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend a breast scan.
The risk from the radioactive tracer is very low. The amount used in the test is very small. You may feel some slight discomfort when the tracer is injected. Allergic reactions to the tracer are rare, but they may happen.
Lying on the scanning table during the procedure may cause some discomfort or pain for certain people.
Tell your healthcare provider if you are:
You may have other risks that are unique to you. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
You may have a breast scan as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.
Generally, a breast scan follows this process:
The breast scan is not painful. But you may have some discomfort or pain from lying still during the test. This may be because of recent surgery or a joint injury. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and do the scan as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
You should move slowly when getting up from the scanner table to avoid any dizziness or lightheadedness.
You may be told to drink plenty of fluids and empty your bladder often for 1 to 2 days after the scan. This will help flush the radioactive tracer from your body.
The medical staff will check the IV site for any signs of redness or swelling. Tell your healthcare provider if you see any pain, redness, or swelling at the IV site after you go home. These may be signs of infection or another type of reaction.
You may go back to your usual diet and activities as directed by your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: