Breast Imaging Center of Excellence

The Breast Care Center at South Texas Health System McAllen offers advanced medical imaging and diagnostic services, including digital mammography, 3D tomosynthesis with dose reduction software, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, hereditary genetic testing and stereotactic breast biopsy to help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. The multidisciplinary team includes radiology technologists, radiologists and breast surgeons.

Schedule an Appointment

Appointments for bone density screening (with a physician's referral) and a mammogram may be scheduled for the same visit. Please call 956‑388‑2190 to schedule an appointment.

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Digital Mammography (ACR accredited)

Mammography remains the gold standard for screening for early stage breast cancer. Digital mammography is used to detect breast cancer and other breast abnormalities. The images are sharper and clearer than analog film X-rays and require a lower dose of radiation. Digital mammography allows the radiologist to capture and manipulate the digital image so abnormalities can be seen more easily with the help of a CAD (computer aided detection) tool. The mammogram images are easily stored and can be retrieved faster.

The best defense against breast cancer is early detection. It is important to get regular mammograms according to your doctor's recommended schedule.  Do not wear deodorant, lotions, body sprays or powder on the day of your mammogram.

3D Mammography

South Texas Health System McAllen now offers 3D digital mammography using advanced software that provides a faster exam and reduces radiation exposure. 3D mammography combines the advantages of digital mammography with a 3D image of the breast, which helps physicians see breast tissue in greater detail. With 3D mammography, there is improved early detection of abnormalities with fewer false positives.

Call 956-388-2190 to pre-register for a 3D screening mammogram.

Benefits of 3D Mammography

The primary benefits of upgrading to a 3D tomosynthesis mammography system are:

  • More accurate detection. By minimizing the impact of overlapping breast tissue, 3D mammography can make a tumor easier to see. Reviewing multiple images has helped doctors find more cancers than with 2D images alone.
  • Earlier diagnosis. 3D mammography may help detect cancers earlier than conventional mammography.
  • Better detection in dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue, often found in younger women, can cause shadows due to overlapping tissue, which hides tumors from traditional 2D mammography. 3D mammography takes images of the breast from multiple angles, thereby offering a cutting-edge look through and around breast tissue.
  • Less anxiety. 3D mammography can help reduce false alarms. The improved accuracy in diagnosing abnormal structures offered by a 3D view of the breast decreases the number of unnecessary callbacks to women for additional scans and biopsies.
  • Safety and effectiveness. During a 3D mammogram, women will experience a minimal amount of additional radiation, compared with a standard mammogram. However, this dose is below the FDA-regulated limit for mammography, and no additional risk from an amount of radiation this small has been shown. The FDA studied the radiation issue before approving screening and diagnostic 3D mammography, concluding that the benefits outweigh any potential risk.

When to Get Mammograms

  • Women at average risk for breast cancer: Women with a personal history of breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer (such as BRCA), and women who had radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 are at higher risk for breast cancer, not average-risk.
  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.

Breast Imaging Center of Excellence

STHS McAllen has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE) by the American College of Radiology (ACR). We earned this prestigious designation through our commitment to the highest standards in breast image quality by having a dedicated team of Women’s Breast Imaging Specialists, state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, personnel proficiency, quality control and quality assurance procedures.

2D and 3D mammography, breast ultrasound, ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, and stereotactic breast biopsy modalities are all accredited under the BICOE designation. Moreover, our breast imaging specialists and technologists have received enhanced education and training. Our staff is board certified, have expertise in breast imaging, and are trained in the most recent breast imaging technologies.

Breast UltrasoundAmerican College of Radiology Breast Ultrasound Accreditation Seal

Ultrasound is a noninvasive examination that uses sound waves and requires no radiation to detect diseases and locate possible abnormalities in breast tissue. Ultrasound systems are designed to provide doctors with precise images for efficient diagnosis of breast problems. The system enables the physician to perform high-resolution panoramic imaging or 3D scanning in real time.

Breast MRI

Breast MRI is an extremely helpful imaging exam in evaluating mammogram abnormalities and identifying early breast cancer. During a breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a magnetic field imaging unit with dedicated breast coils is used to produce accurate and detailed images from areas inside the body. Contrast is necessary for diagnostic MRI of the breast. A dye is used to help highlight abnormal tissue in the breast. There is no radiation involved with a breast MRI. Breast MRI has been shown to be extremely sensitive in detecting small cancers not seen with mammography or breast ultrasound. Breast MRI can successfully image dense breast tissue. It is used as a screening tool for women at high risk for breast cancer and for evaluating breast implants.

MRI of the breast is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound imaging. It is a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer as well as other breast abnormalities. Your safety is our highest priority. Before your MRI, please tell us if you have any metallic objects or devices inside your body, because these may interfere with the MRI’s magnetic field.

Hereditary Genetic Testing

At the Breast Care Center, the patient’s family history of cancer will be screened and reviewed. The mammogram technologist will identify appropriate patients for hereditary cancer risk assessment.  Genetic testing will be offered to those patients who meet genetic testing criteria.

Telegenetic Counseling

At no charge to the patient, we offer a personalized one-on-one teleconference with certified genetic counselors. These highly trained individuals will be able to identify which patients are at high risk, or likely to be at high risk, utilizing data reflecting vital health indicators, lifestyle and medical history. These counselors will recommend the most appropriate medical management pathways. Telegenetic counseling combined with our patient navigational service offers greater comprehensive care solutions, and provides a service that supports improved patient outcomes.

Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

American College of Radiology Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Accreditation SealA stereotactic breast biopsy is used to check breast tissue abnormalities not visible through breast ultrasound. A stereotactic breast biopsy uses mammography to help pinpoint and target a breast abnormality. The radiologist will collect several tissue samples to determine if cancerous cells are present. These tissue samples are sent to the pathology department. Pathology results are then forwarded to the patient’s physician. The exam is an outpatient procedure.

In addition to breast imaging, the Breast Care Center offers bone density testing, which uses low dose radiation to produce images of the spine and hip to measure bone loss from osteoporosis to assess a person's risk for developing fractures.

Osteoporosis is a disease that increases bone loss, which makes bones fragile and more susceptible to fractures or breaks. After the age of 25, when maximum bone density and strength is reached, the body’s rate of replacing new bone slows in comparison to its rate of removing old bone.