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CIBC Breast Centre

Breast Screening and Diagnostic Procedures


A mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breasts used to aid in the early detection of breast cancer (before it can be felt). A routine mammogram consists of four pictures / views (one from top to bottom and one sideways of each breast). It involves compressing the breast with a mammography machine paddle. Compression of the breast is very important because it spreads out overlapping structures in the breast, allowing them to be seen more clearly. It also reduces the thickness of the breast, so less radiation is used. A specially trained x-ray technologist or mammographer will position your breast for each view, and then your breast will be compressed for a very short time.

The compression may cause some discomfort while applied.

Mammograms are performed in the standing position. If you are at a risk of falling, please inform the technologist as the images can be performed in the sitting position.

Special Views

Sometimes, the radiologist (the doctor that reads your mammogram) will ask for additional pictures known as spot compression or magnification views.

Spot compression views are done to better visualize a specific area of the breast. This is done by applying compression (squeezing) to the area of the breast using a small paddle. This helps to separate the overlapping breast tissue even more than a regular mammogram and allows the radiologist to evaluate the area in question more effectively.

Magnification views are done to increase the visibility of calcifications (tiny specks of calcium) seen in the breast.   These views are "zoomed in" pictures of the area in question.

Special views are performed in the standing position. If you are at a risk of falling, please inform the technologist as the images can be performed in the sitting position.

Breast Ultrasound

This procedure uses sound waves to produce images of the breast. It is used when the radiologist wants to evaluate an area in question on your mammogram. Ultrasound uses gel and a special instrument called a transducer that the technologist will slide across the breast.


Ductogram is a procedure to evaluate the mammary ducts when a patient has nipple discharge. This is done using a tiny catheter which is inserted into the nipple duct from where the discharge is coming from. Contrast material (dye) is injected into the duct and then mammographic views are performed. This will show anything that is not normal.


Biopsies are procedures where cells are removed from your breast to study in a laboratory. It is the only way for doctors to know for sure if you have breast cancer, the type of cancer you have and whether the cancer has spread. Tissue can be removed using a needle that is guided by an ultrasound machine or a stereotactic mammography. The tissue samples are sent to the pathology department for diagnosis.

Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA)

Fine Needle Aspiration is a procedure that involves inserting a very thin needle that is guided by an ultrasound machine to get a sample of your cells. The sample is then sent for diagnosis.