Breast Imaging Experience and Specialization

Accurate Detection

Mammograms

Because we have expert breast imaging specialists interpreting all breast imaging studies, as well as advanced imaging techniques and equipment, the false positive rate at UCSF Medical Center is approximately half the national false positive[1] average.  Yet our accurate detection of breast cancer is much higher than the average.

High Volume of Normal Mammograms

UCSF Breast Imaging screens a high volume of normal mammograms. Screening mammograms are recommended by UCSF’s Department of Radiology for women starting at age 40 who have no known problems. The purpose of a screening mammography exam is breast cancer testing and detection. UCSF performs 100 percent, full-field, digital mammography, and this advanced technology has proven to be of significant increased value in detecting cancers that might have be missed using older technologies used at some medical centers. Digital screening mammography has the additional benefit of lower levels of radiation than traditional analog mammograms.

 

​Regular Mammograms Find Breast Cancer Earlier

Studies have shown that having regular mammograms increases a woman's chances of finding breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment of breast cancer is most effective. It has been estimated that mammograms may find cancers as much as two or three years before the cancers can be felt. Mammograms starting at age 40 means better prognoses for women diagnosed -- and lives saved.

A normal mammogram is not an absolute guarantee that a woman is cancer-free. There are mammogram findings that may suggest more inquiry and follow-up. For example, there are breast calcifications (calcium deposits within breast tissue) that can be seen on mammograms in about 50 percent of women over 50, and in about 10 percent of women under 50 years. Although breast calcifications are usually noncancerous and benign, certain patterns, clusters or irregular shapes, may indicate the possibility of breast cancer.

A mammography report describes details about the appearance of the breasts in the imaging study. It rates the mammogram according to standardized categories, as part of the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS®) created by the American College of Radiology (ACR). A normal mammogram may be rated as “BI-RADS 1 Negative” -no abnormalities are seen. A normal mammogram may also be rated as “BI-RADS 2 Benign” -some benign findings. This means there are one or more findings but they are clearly benign (not cancerous), including some kinds of calcifications, normal lymph nodes or stable cysts.

 

Consultations for Complex Cases

Complex Cases

As a tertiary referral center[2], we work on very complex and unusual breast imaging cases referred from UCSF physicians and from referring physicians from other places in California, the U.S., and elsewhere around the world.  This work is in addition to the standard, high quality, breast imaging that UCSF provides.  This experience contributes to UCSF’s enormous clinical and scientific proficiency in breast imaging and in breast cancer, which in turn directly increases our ability to help patients and their physicians.  By sharing our skill in detecting and diagnosing abnormalities, we can provide very informative consultations to referring physicians, identifying a full range of alternatives and making recommendations for next steps for their patients’ care. When an abnormality is identified we can contribute recommendations for treatment for breast cancer including surgery, chemotherapy radiation and other therapeutic steps as needed.

Valued Clinical Judgement

Each day, we see that our valuable experience leads to better clinical judgment and skill, which gives us more insight that is useful for women and their referring physicians. We offer a full range of recommendations and judgments about options ranging from screening diagnostic exams to surgical or oncological referrals.

Breast MRI exams


[1] A false positive is the rate of occurrence of a positive test result reporting disease or abnormality, when patient is actually free of disease. This is important in breast imaging because women who receive a “false positive” are cancer-free but may receive more testing to prove they are cancer free.  This can cause anxiety and be upsetting.  At UCSF a radiologist or nurse is happy to speak with patients to help them through this process.

[2] Medical Center with sub specialty expertise which serves referring doctors and other hospitals.