Radiologists at Houston Methodist Baytown are adding new technology to help detect breast cancer. They are performing Contrast-Enhanced Mammography as an additional method to detect cancers in indicated patients.


According to breast imaging radiologist Dr. Ana Benveniste, the technology helps detect breast cancer in several ways. “Contrast-Enhanced Mammography can be used to determine the extent of cancer in newly diagnosed patients, it can be used to monitor those undergoing treatment, and it can help screen women at a high lifetime risk for developing breast cancer,” said Benveniste.


Here is how it works. A contrast agent, the same used on CT scans, is delivered to the bloodstream by intravenous access. The contrast material is attracted to areas of concentrated blood flow. Since breast cancers generally have more blood flow, the abnormalities will light up on the contrast-enhanced mammogram. The process can be compared to having a breast MRI with mammography.


“CEM (contrast-enhanced mammograph) has comparable performance to breast MRI without the added cost and it is superior to conventional mammography for cancer detection,” said Benveniste. CEM can also be easier on the patient than a breast MRI. In the breast MRI, the patient must lie on their stomach with their arms out. It also serves as an alternative for those who can’t use an MRI, such as those who have metallic implants, claustrophobia, or weight limitations.


A contrast-enhanced mammogram is typically ordered by a physician following a traditional mammogram and/or an ultrasound exam to learn more about an area of concern in the breast. While the procedure is considered safe, there are some minimal risks. These include allergic reactions to the contrast material, leaking of blood or the contrast agent into nearby tissue, and, more rarely, contrast-induced kidney issues.


“Adverse reactions have been reported in 0.6%-0.8% of women undergoing CEM; the majority of the cases were mild, suggesting the contrast agents are relatively safe,” said Benveniste. Most insurance companies cover the cost of contrast-enhanced mammography, but it is always best to check with your insurance company before scheduling the procedure.


The Houston Methodist Breast Care Center opened in Baytown in 2019 and offers numerous services including innovative technology and a comprehensive breast care program. Our specialists review your mammogram history and track results over time — detecting changes earlier. That’s why scheduling your mammogram starting at age 40 — or younger, if you have a family history — is so important. You do not need a prescription to schedule a mammogram unless you are under 40. Patients can also schedule bone density scans along with mammograms.


To schedule an appointment, head to or call 346.292.7465.