There are many different ways to look inside a human body and in the evaluation of a breast abnormality, the most common ways are with mammograms, ultrasound and MRI. We have already discussed mammograms. The breast ultrasound is a good way to use sound waves which reflect off tissue and the particular characteristics of the reflection indicate whether an abnormality is either a solid or hollow (cystic) area. The most common breast cancers are solid and show up on ultrasound fairly well. The ultrasound is sometimes used to guide a needle biopsy as the abnormality is visible and so is the needle, thus the doctor performing the biopsy can verify in real time that the area sampled corresponds to the solid lesion.
A breast MRI is a highly specialized form of breast imaging and has a high probability of identifying a breast abnormality. The issue with MRI is that it is not specific and many different breast abnormalities are identified, most are benign and could easily result in many unnecessary biopsies with subsequent risk of bleeding and infection. However, when there is a lot of doubt as to the extent of abnormality within the breast, the MRI has a definite role to play.