Tests for Breast Cancer


The University of Colorado offers multiple breast imaging modalities utilizing the most advanced technology in the field. Every film is read by a board-certified radiologist with specialized training in breast imaging. We strive to provide a caring environment for our patients during their visit.

Digital Mammogram

This mammogram takes an electronic image of the breast and stores it directly in a computer instead of film. Digital mammography uses less radiation than film mammography, and the images can be stored and sent electronically. The American Cancer Society guidelines for breast cancer screening include annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Tomosynthesis 3D Mammography

An advanced technology performed in conjunction with mammography. Multiple pictures are taken and used to construct a 3D image of the breast tissue, providing a clearer, more accurate view compared to digital mammography alone. Research on breast tomosynthesis shows an improved breast-cancer detection rate.

Breast Ultrasound

A machine that uses high-energy sound waves to form a picture of the breast tissue, which is displayed on a screen. The ultrasound can show if a lump is solid or a fluid-filled cyst.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI scannerA machine that uses a magnet and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. Screening via MRI in addition to mammography is the most effective combination for finding breast tumors in women with a high genetic risk of breast cancer.


A biopsy removes tissue for a pathologist to examine under a microscope. A biopsy helps to confirm whether a lump is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). There are several types of biopsies used to diagnose breast problems:

  • Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) — A pathologist removes individual cells. We are often able to provide results on the same day of the clinic visit.
  • Core Biopsy— Removes a piece of tissue about the size of a pencil lead. Results take approximately two days for diagnosis.
  • Excisional Biopsy — A surgical procedure that removes tissue from a questionable area. Results take five to seven days for diagnosis.

Genetic testing

The most common genetic testing for breast cancer looks for abnormalities in the BRCA 1 and 2 genes. Both men and women can inherit these genes. A genetic counselor evaluates the family history for the number and types of cancer in the family and, if a gene defect is suspected, can order testing to determine if the patient has a gene mutation that increases breast-cancer risk. This testing can help women and their doctors make healthcare decisions that lower the risk of breast cancer.

Genetic counselors

Our certified genetic counselors, Lisen Axell, Lisa Ku, and Michelle Springer.