Breast health experts at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) provide breast cancer screenings and can help you figure out which screenings are right for you based on your age, health, risk level, and other factors.
Screening tests are done on a regular schedule in women without any breast cancer symptoms. They identify signs that might otherwise go unnoticed.
That’s important because the earlier we detect the disease, the better. Women with smaller, early-stage breast cancer have more treatment options and a better chance for a cure.
To schedule a screening mammogram or breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), call (206) 606-7800
Why choose SCCA for screenings
The breast cancer screening tests we recommend—mammography and, for some women, breast MRI—are based on the best scientific evidence, like all the care SCCA provides.
- SCCA is recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.
- You can feel confident about being screened at SCCA because the expert technologists and radiologists who perform and interpret your tests specialize in breast imaging exclusively. Our radiologists are UW Medicine doctors.
- We use leading-edge technology, like 3D mammography, and are actively engaged in research to improve breast cancer early detection with imaging.
- To put your mind at ease, you have the option to select an appointment where we’ll give you the results of your screening the same day.
- If your radiologist recommends a biopsy to check tissue that might be abnormal, we offer same-day biopsy services.
Getting a screening mammogram
Screening mammograms are the most common and most studied screening test for breast cancer. They save lives by identifying cancers early.
- A mammogram uses X-rays to produce images of your breast so a radiologist can see abnormalities that may be too small for you or your health care provider to feel.
- At SCCA, we use the most advanced mammographic technology, called 3D mammography or digital breast tomosynthesis.
- 3D mammography takes many pictures of your breast at once. This means better odds of finding true cancers early and fewer false alarms (suspecting cancer in tissue that’s actually healthy).
- Once you have a mammogram, you may learn you have dense breasts. As this information may be confusing, here is information on breast density and what you should know.
Schedule a mammogram
- SCCA Women's Center at SCCA South Lake Union
- SCCA Mammogram Van (various locations)
- UW Eastside Specialty Center
Getting a screening breast MRI
MRI is an important additional screening test for some women. A breast MRI uses strong magnetic fields, rather than X-rays, to image the breast. It can help detect breast cancers that are harder to see on a mammogram.
While MRI is the most powerful tool we have to detect breast cancer early, it is not right for everyone. That’s because this test can raise suspicions—leading to more tests and procedures—about areas that turn out not to be cancer.
- In general, a screening breast MRI is useful, along with a mammogram, if you are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- SCCA radiologists are experts at obtaining high-quality breast MRI images and identifying which women will benefit the most from MRIs.
- We also conduct breast MRI research and clinical trials that examine how to best use this technology.
Schedule a breast MRI
Other breast imaging tests
SCCA experts constantly assess the latest scientific evidence about the best ways to screen for breast cancer, so you can be certain the benefits outweigh the risks for any test we offer.
Mammography and MRI are the most proven ways to detect breast cancers with imaging.
You may hear about other imaging tests being used or studied to screen women with dense breasts. None of these other tests have been proven to save lives. That’s why doctors at SCCA do not routinely recommend them for most women.
Learn more about other breast imaging tests.
Breast self-exam and awareness
You can help detect breast cancer by being aware of how your breasts normally feel and seeing your health care provider about any changes you notice. Many breast cancers today are self-detected.
In the United States, for every 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer:
- Six were diagnosed because they had a screening test, like a mammogram, that detected abnormal tissue, even though they had no signs or symptoms.
- Four were diagnosed because the woman or her health care provider felt a lump or noticed another sign or symptom and had it evaluated.
How should I check my breasts?
There’s no one right way to examine your breasts. Just become familiar with how the tissue usually feels. Research shows that teaching women a particular method of breast self-exam doesn’t improve results. Trust yourself.
What am I feeling for?
Pay attention if:
- You feel a new or different lump, mass, or thickening in your breast—especially if it lasts more than a month or two in the same spot.
- You have other breast symptoms that concern you and you’d like a health care provider’s help to evaluate them.
What if I find something?
Call SCCA’s Breast Health Clinic or your regular health care provider for an appointment. We have breast specialists familiar with the whole spectrum of breast concerns, from benign to malignant, who can help you sort out what your symptoms might mean.
Along with having a clinical evaluation, you may need:
- Imaging tests, like a mammogram or ultrasound
- Other diagnostic tests like a biopsy to remove a small sample of cells and check them under a microscope
How worried should I be?
Most breast changes that you or your health care provider can feel are not cancer. If you feel worried, remember it’s normal for your breasts to change at different times in your menstrual cycle or for other completely harmless reasons. Take a deep breath, and then see a health care provider for an evaluation.
What if I’m told everything’s fine but I’m not sure?
If you have an evaluation and are told everything is normal, but the mass or other symptom persists or gets worse and you’re concerned, come back for another appointment.
What about breast exams by my doctor?
Clinical breast exam—where your health care provider looks at and feels your breasts for signs of cancer or other health issues—is a common and normal part of a general physical exam, such as an annual wellness check-up. If your provider doesn’t automatically include a breast exam, it’s OK to ask them to do it.