What is a Breast Radiologist?

Published on October 26, 2020

mammogram imaging

What is a Breast Radiologist?

When you go for your routine screening mammogram, you probably won’t see one of the most important people vital to your care. When you arrive, you will be greeted by the front desk and then brought to the mammography suite by the technologist. After your imaging is complete, a breast radiologist reads your mammogram and will send you and your referring provider a report. Sonya Kella, MD, director of Women’s Imaging at Adventist HealthCare, and a radiologist that specializes in breast imaging, gives us a little more insight on what a breast radiologist does.

What is a Breast Radiologist?

Dr. Kella: Breast radiologists specialize in interpreting images of the breast in order to diagnose and help treat different medical conditions of the breast. They read mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and breast MRIs, and perform diagnostic breast procedures that can help to diagnose and treat breast cancer. What makes a breast radiologist unique is that they often work closely with patients and their cancer care team to help guide breast cancer management.  They also perform minimally invasive procedures in the office which help diagnose breast cancer and also many benign conditions of the breast.

What types of procedures do they complete?

Dr. Kella: Breast radiologists perform diagnostic procedures like percutaneous (minimally invasive) biopsies to diagnose an abnormal finding in the breast seen on imaging.  These biopsies can be performed with ultrasound, mammogram (stereotactic), or MRI-guidance. They also help localize areas of the breast that need to be removed by a surgeon by doing preoperative, image-guided procedures called localizations.  The localizations are also minimally invasive and can be completed using reflector seed or thin wires.  Finally, breast radiologists perform aspiration procedures under ultrasound guidance to help alleviate the pain of some benign breast conditions like cysts.

What does it mean when a breast radiologist is fellowship trained?

Dr. Kella: When a breast radiologist is fellowship trained, it means they spent extra time after residency (typically one year) specializing in advanced breast imaging and breast procedures as described above.  During this additional training, they learn how to work with a multidisciplinary team such as surgeons, oncologists, and other treatment specialists to optimize breast cancer care for patients.

A residency in radiology provides training in basic aspects of breast cancer detection and diagnosis. The additional fellowship is what turns breast radiologists into specialists, so they can provide the more complex aspects of care such as procedures and MRI. At Adventist HealthCare Imaging, all complex breast care is provided solely by fellowship-trained breast radiologists which has become the community standard.

Who does the breast radiologist work with?

Dr. Kella: The breast radiologist will work hand in hand with all your doctors, particularly breast surgeons, as you are treated for breast cancer. Your care team is typically comprised of a breast surgeon, pathologist, oncologist and radiation oncologist. They all work together to bring the best care and treatment to you. Even if you have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, a breast radiologist will work with your referring provider, often a primary care or OBGYN doctor, to help understand your benign results.

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