Breast Care & Mammograms

Our Approach to Treatment

Houston Methodist Breast Care Centers offer breast care education, support programs, self-care and cancer prevention screenings and treatment. All women are at risk for breast cancer, which increases with age. Annual screenings are key to early breast cancer detection.

Our breast care navigators reduce patient stress by answering questions and providing emotional support and guidance for those who require cancer treatment.

Examinations and Screenings
Improve your chances of an early breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and cure with self-examinations and clinical breast exams.

Regularly checking your breasts allows you to become familiar with how they normally look and feel. You will be more likely to notice any changes, including:
  • Lumps, hard knots or thickening inside the breast or underarm
  • Breast swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
  • Breast size or shape changes
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • An itchy, scaly nipple sore or rash
  • Nipple or breast inversion or retraction
  • Sudden nipple discharge
  • New pain in one spot that does not go away

A self-examination can help diagnose breast cancer. 

A clinical breast exam should be part of your annual well-woman checkup and performed by your doctor.

Mammography
A mammogram is a breast X-ray that can show small, early-stage cancers. High-quality digital screening mammography is the most effective tool to detect breast cancer before lumps can be felt or cancer symptoms appear. Early breast cancer detection helps provide a woman with more treatment options and increases the possibility of a favorable prognosis.

Radiation exposure during a mammogram is low, about the equivalent of a dental X-ray. Mammography can be uncomfortable or painful for some women, but adjustments can be made to reduce your pain. 

First Mammograms

Women with average breast cancer risk typically begin annual mammograms at age 40. Women in their 20s and 30s should have clinical breast examinations during physical examinations.

Types of Mammography and Imaging
We perform screening and diagnostic mammograms depending on a patient’s medical history and breast symptoms. Appointments can last up to two hours, depending on the mammogram performed.
  • Digital mammograms — images are produced digitally rather than using film. The screening is more sensitive than traditional film mammography and can include computer-aided detection (CAD). CAD systems highlight abnormal areas in an image
  • 3-D mammograms (breast tomosynthesis) — highly efficient and accurate digital technology used to identify smaller tumors sooner for earlier breast cancer detection
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — an extremely sensitive test to look for breast cancer indicators using magnetic fields to view the body. It also may be used for breast cancer treatment planning and performing an MRI biopsy
  • Molecular breast imaging (MBI) — a technique used to identify tumors in dense breasts
  • Breast ultrasounds — imaging that can determine if a lump or mass is filled with fluid

Mammography Preparation
A specially trained technologist will perform your mammogram. 

Diagnostics
If your mammogram results require further examination, your doctor may recommend:
  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy — a thin needle used to remove cells or fluid from a breast lump
  • Core biopsy —a wider needle used to remove a larger breast tissue sample
  • Skin biopsy — a small skin sample taken if skin changes are found your breast
  • Surgical biopsy — removal of part of a lump (incisional biopsy) or an entire abnormal area (excisional biopsy)
  • Minimally invasive biopsy — a fine needle extracts tissue through an incision for analysis
    • MRI-guided biopsy — an MRI scan of the breast identifies suspicious tissue and guides a biopsy needle to the site for tissue collection
    • Ultrasound-guided biopsy — an ultrasound identifies suspicious tissue and guides a biopsy needle to the site for tissue collection
    • Stereotactic biopsy — A digital X-ray guides doctors to a biopsy site for tissue collection
  • Ductography — an imaging technique used to identify or diagnose breast abnormalities that may cause nipple discharge. A contrast material is injected in the breast’s mammary duct before a mammogram. The contrast marks the breast ducts, making abnormalities more visible during the mammogram
  • Genetic testing — laboratory tests performed to detect cancer genes provide information to help make health care decisions
    • BRCA1 and BRCA2 analysis — testing for gene mutation detection before cancer develops

Breast Cancer Prevention
Some factors may decrease breast cancer risk or recurrence:
  • Decreased estrogen exposure
  • Medications to reduce estrogen receptivity
  • Medications to inhibit estrogen production
  • Prophylactic mastectomy (breast removal without cancer diagnosis or symptoms)
  • Prophylactic oophorectomy (ovary removal without cancer diagnosis or symptoms)
  • A healthy lifestyle and diet:
    • Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
    • Avoiding fatty foods
    • Adding whole grains, cereals and calcium
    • Regularly exercising
    • Not smoking
  • Moderate alcohol consumption


TREATMENT LOCATIONS

Houston Methodist provides mammograms and breast care at the following convenient locations: