Breast Screening Options

3 Non-Invasive Breast Cancer Screening Options

May 13, 2019

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Breast cancer screening and preventative action are vital to early detection. Although modern science has evolved significantly over the years, the best defense women have against this terrible disease is living a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet, physical activity, and going for regularly scheduled mammograms. When breast cancer is caught in the early stages, chances of treatment being successful improve significantly.

As the Canadian Cancer Society states, “breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding melanoma skin cancers).” In 2017, over 26,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. This statistic is expected to grow to 26,900 women annually, in 2019.

This number represents 25% of all new cancer cases in women that year! Therefore, on average, 72 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer every day.[1] So, what can women do to combat this disease?

Breast Cancer Screening Options:

1. Mammography

Mammography uses a low-dose X-ray for either screening or diagnosis of breast disease. The results help your doctor identify whether tumors are present and if they are malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Screening mammography is performed on women who do not show any breast cancer symptoms, usually every two years after you turn 50.

Diagnostic mammography is performed to inspect suspicious lumps or areas identified during a breast examination or screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammography takes longer than screening mammography because more-detailed images and views of the breasts are taken.

When Should You Consider Going for a Screening Mammogram?

Recommendations for Asymptomatic, Average Risk Women are:

< 40 years old: Screening is not routinely recommended because the incidence of breast cancer is low in this age group

40-49 years old: Annual Screening Mammography is recommended. Women in this age group tend to have higher breast density (which can obscure small early cancers) and cancers tend to grow more rapidly.

50-74 years old: Both the ACR/SBI and the NCCN recommend Annual Screening Mammography whereas the CAR recommended every 1-2 years (biennial). Insight recommends for annual screening mammography to be strongly considered but these women should never go longer than 2 years between screening. Annual mammography decreases a women’s chance of dying from breast cancer compared to biennial screening, particularly those with dense breasts.

>74 years old: Both the ACR/SBI and the NCCN recommend continuing with Annual Screening Mammography whereas the CAR recommends continuing with screening every 1-2 years (biennial). However, if a women has severe comorbidities (medical problems) expected to limit her life expectancy, then screening mammography is not recommended.

Alberta Health Care covers one screening mammogram per calendar year. Therefore, if you have a screening mammogram in January 2019, you will have to wait until at least January 2020 before your next screening exam.

Talk to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of mammography. It is important to note that Alberta Health Care also covers patients referred by a doctor for as many diagnostic mammograms in a calendar year as deemed fit.

Self-Referring for Screening Mammograms

Did you know you may be eligible for a screening mammogram at Insight Medical Imaging without a referral from your doctor?

Since early detection provides the best chance at a successful treatment, Alberta Health Services and the Screening for Life initiative strive to make screening mammography as convenient as possible for women age 40 and older.

By allowing patients to self-refer without having to visit their doctor for a referral every calendar year, they are more likely to take initiative and follow a proactive screening routine.

Self-Referral Guidelines:
Age 40 to 49: who have had a previous mammo
Age 50 to 74: with/without a previous mammo
Age 75 +: who have had a previous mammo
Have not had breast cancer
Have no breast symptoms

These guidelines are based on statistics, detection rates, and industry best practices.

Insight Medical Imaging encourages our patients to strongly consider going for a screening mammogram once every year between the ages of 40 and 49, especially if you have a family history or any risk factors that make you more susceptible.

Since cancer is more aggressive in individuals aged between 40 and 49 years old, early detection provides us with the best chance at a successful treatment.

Additional Breast Cancer Screening:

2. Breast Ultrasound

Breast ultrasound is another non-invasive procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to assess breast tissue. This exam is painless and emits no radiation.

Typically breast ultrasound is used as a supplemental screening method to help diagnose lumps, bumps, or abnormalities found during a mammogram or previous exam. Breast ultrasound can also be used to determine whether a tumor is malignant or benign.

3. Breast MRI

Private breast MRI is another non-invasive imaging exam that uses radio waves passed through the breast to form exceptionally detailed images. Insight Medical Imaging uses a special breast coil and dedicated breast software when performing an MRI of the breast.

This exam is a leading-edge way to supplement existing imaging from mammography and ultrasound. Breast MRI is usually considered for high-risk patients and is arguably the best tool for staging cancer development. It can also help your doctor examine how treatment methods such as chemotherapy are working, in addition to assessing possible implant ruptures.

Be Proactive

Talk to your doctor about breast cancer risk factors that might make you more susceptible. If you decide you would like to start screening, our breast imaging services are fully accredited by the Canadian Association of Radiology and a part of the Alberta Society of Radiologists breast imaging database program.

Our highly experienced staff at Insight Medical Imaging can perform your screening and diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, breast MRI, and other minimally invasive alternatives to evaluate possible breast disease. We can also perform many of these exams on the same day to save you time and stress!


  1. Canadian Cancer Society. (2017). Screening for Breast Cancer. Retrieved from
  2. Canadian Cancer Society. (2016). Mammography. Retrieved from
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2018). Breast MRI. Retrieved from
  4. Radiological Society of North America. (2013). Mammography. Retrieved from: