The first step in investigating a breast health concern, identified through a screening mammogram, clinical breast examination, or breast self-examination, is to see your family doctor or a doctor at a walk-in clinic.
If you've had an abnormal screening mammogram, and your doctor is participating in the Screening Mammography Program of BC (SMPBC) "Fast Track" Facilitated Work-up" program, you may be contacted directly by a diagnostic breast imaging facility and asked to come in for further tests.
The doctor will complete a breast health and family history and a physical examination. Then, the doctor will determine whether any further tests are needed. If so, they may be done in the office (e.g. fine needle aspiration of a cyst) or booked through a diagnostic breast imaging service.
Diagnostic breast imaging services are provided by teams of radiologists, pathologists and breast imaging technologists in various locations across Vancouver Island.
A doctor’s referral is required for diagnostic breast imaging services. Your doctor will make an appointment for you by faxing a “Breast Imaging Requisition" to a diagnostic facility. Either your doctor's office or the booking clerk from the facility will phone you with an appointment, usually within one week of receiving the referral. If you are being booked for a routine diagnostic mammogram (e.g. previous diagnosis of breast cancer or breast implants), it may take longer to hear about your appointment date.
The facility will phone you a few days before your scheduled appointment to remind you of your appointment date and time.
Breast Imaging Procedures
The procedure(s) your doctor orders will depend on your clinical breast exam, your symptoms, your age and the last time you had a mammogram. Once you arrive at the diagnostic facility, the radiologist may recommend other tests if he/she feels they would be beneficial.
Find out what procedures are offered through Breast Imaging Services.
For a description of the types of diagnostic breast imaging procedures that are available, please click on the following links:
- Diagnostic mammography
- Breast MRI
- Breast ultrasound
- Breast biopsy
- Fine needle aspiration
- Stereotactic core biopsy
This test may be used to investigate when there is spontaneous, one-sided nipple discharge, especially when it is bloody or blood stained. There must be active nipple discharge before this can be done.
A radiologist threads a special blunt catheter into the milk duct, injects dye into it and then takes some mammographic pictures. The dye produces a visual “map” for tracing the source of the discharge and will help the doctor diagnose the problem.
- Ultrasound-guided core biopsy
A suspicious area is located with the use of ultrasound. Next, a needle biopsy is performed to remove a small core of breast tissue for examination under a microscope.
Preparing For Your Visit
Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time. Once you arrive in the Breast Imaging area, you will be greeted and taken to a change room where you may be asked to undress from the waist up and to change into a gown. Please do not wear any deodorant, talcum powder or perfume the day of your appointment as this can interfere with the accuracy of some of the tests.
After your procedure(s) are complete, you will be given instructions by the Radiologist or Breast Imaging Technologist regarding follow-up care or further appointments.
Written results of your tests will be forwarded to your referring doctor. If you do not hear from this doctor within 7-10 days of your exam, please contact him/her to make an appointment to learn your results.
Common Breast Health Concerns
Benign Breast Conditions
The following downloadable PDF files contain information on common benign (not cancerous) breast conditions. The information they contain is meant to build on information you have obtained from your healthcare providers and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Any change in your breast(s) should be reported to your physician promptly. Learn what you can do if you are experiencing a breast health concern.
Breast Imaging Services Contact Information
You can find out which location offers which service here: Breast Imaging Services.
Victoria General Hospital
Cowichan District Hospital
250-709-3000 ext. 44242
Nanaimo Regional General Hospital
West Coast General Hospital
North Island Hospital Campbell River & District
250-286-7100 ext. 67442
North Island Hospital Comox Valley
250-331-5900 ext. 65500
West Coast Medical Imaging
301 - 1990 Fort Street