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Malignant Disease of the Breast: The Role of Breast Imaging in Identification and Treatment (Update)

Rennette Timbrell, RT(T), MRad (South Africa)*

Updated by Linda Giering, PhD

 *Supervisor-Radiation Therapy, Radiation Oncology Department, University of Colorado Hospital, Denver, Aurora, Colorado.

 †Medical Writer, Medical Knowledge Systems, Matawan, New Jersey.

 Address correspondence to: Linda Giering, PhD, E-mail: lindagiering@gmail.com.

Disclosure: Ms Giering reports having no significant financial or advisory relationships with corporate organizations related to this activity.


In 2016, 246 660 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 61 000 will be diagnosed with in situ breast cancer. Diagnosis of breast cancer can be challenging as the distinction of benign from malignant disease is not always conclusive from imaging studies. Mammography is the mainstay of breast cancer screening, however, mammography misses roughly 20% of breast cancers (false-negatives), and its performance is even worse in young women with dense breasts. Some patients will be over diagnosed and needlessly treated. Mammography is also associated with a high false-positive rate, with 70% to 80% of biopsies coming back negative. Other imaging modalities, including sonography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and nuclear medicine breast imaging are important tools to aid in the identification and differentiation of abnormalities of the breast tissue. This article will examine the anatomy of the breast, describe the malignant pathology arising in the breast tissue, and discuss the role of imaging in detecting these abnormalities. A brief summary of current treatment regimens is also provided.

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