Breast Center – Patient Care and Treatment
At Penn State Breast Center, the unique needs of our patients always come first. Individualized treatment plans incorporate the knowledge of experienced breast care specialists—including dedicated breast radiologists and surgeons—who are skilled in the latest minimally invasive techniques.
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To schedule a diagnostic mammogram, clinic appointment, or to transfer previous mammograms, please call
Comprehensive breast care
Our nationally recognized physicians and our access to advanced treatment for breast disease and cancer set us apart.
As part of our extensive diagnostic capabilities, we’re proud to offer:
What is a screening mammogram?
Screening mammograms are low dose x-ray exams of the breast. They are most often used to screen for breast cancer in women who have no symptoms.
What is a diagnostic mammogram?
Diagnostic mammograms are for women who have breast symptoms, such as a lump or pain, or who have a suspicious change on their screening mammogram. They may need additional images taken which are considered diagnostic.
What is tomosynthesis or 3D mammography? Is it a better option?
Tomosynthesis (Digital Breast Tomosynthesis), often described as 3D mammography, is a state of the art imaging technique that allows for separation of tissue by creating individual image slices through the breast. This reduces the overlapping of structures that can obscure a mass and increase call backs which represents a limiting factor in standard 2D mammography. 3D mammography is has increased cancer detection rate in comparison to 2D.
Does a 3D mammography expose me to more radiation?
Yes. Radiation doses are increased but remain well below the FDA regulatory limits due to decreased dose technology.
All screening mammograms at Penn State Health are read in conjunction with Computer aided detection. Computer aided detection (CAD) is a sophisticated scanner and computer program that marks potential areas of concern on the mammogram. CAD has been shown to improve radiologists’ accuracy when reading mammograms.
Does my insurance cover a 3D mammogram?
Under PA law annual mammograms must be available at no cost to consumers, regardless of whether it is 2D or 3D. Out of State and private insurers may choose to not follow these guidelines. It is important to check with your carrier prior to your appointment.
How often should I have a screening mammogram?
The American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) continue to recommend that women get yearly mammograms starting at age 40. The American Cancer Society’s (ACS) breast cancer screening guidelines state that starting annual mammography at age 40 saves the most lives.
Learn more about Breast screening guidelines
What to expect at your mammography screening appointment:
The entire appointment will take about 20-30 minutes from the time you change to the time you leave. You will undress only from the waist up for your mammogram. Your breasts will be in compression for a few seconds at a time to obtain each image. First you will be positioned for a 2D image. After the 2D image is obtained, the tube will pivot to your side to obtain the 3D image. Compression of your breasts is rarely painful. Penn State Health uses MammoPad - a soft, foam cushion that provides a warmer and more comfortable screening.
Learn more about mammography screening
To schedule a screening mammogram, call our 24-hour hotline at 800-243-1455 (Saturday and evening appointments available).
What is Breast Ultrasound?
Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to image the breast. It can provide further diagnostic information about mammogram findings, or better characterize lumps found by you or your doctor.
What to expect at your ultrasound of the breast appointment:
You will need to undress from the waist up. You will lie on the exam table, gel is applied to the area of concern on the breast and the physician then uses a small wand to scan the area. The total time of the procedure is usually about 30 minutes.
For more detailed information
Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound?
What is Automated Whole Breast Ultrasound?
A supplemental screening tool for women with dense breast and higher than average risk. The addition of whole breast ultrasound has been advocated for supplemental screening in all women but its effectiveness has not yet been proven.
What to expect at your automated whole breast ultrasound appointment:
The entire appointment will take about 45 minutes from the time you change until the time you leave. You will undress from the waist up and lie down on the exam table. A layer of lotion is applied and then a scanner is positioned over the breast to obtain images.
Form more detailed information
What is Breast MRI?
Breast MRI is a supplemental tool to mammography and ultrasound in identifying and staging breast cancer and other breast diseases. It’s also a valuable complementary screening tool in women at high risk for breast cancer.
What to expect at your breast MRI appointment:
Breast MRI is a relatively comfortable and easy exam. You will need to arrive a half an hour early to fill out paperwork, change into a gown and have an IV placed. The IV is needed to administer a contrast agent called gadolinium which is necessary to allow the breast tissue to enhance and determine normal versus abnormal breast tissue. The IV is usually recommended, but not in every case. You will be asked to lie on your stomach on a cushioned bed. Your breasts will be positioned within a padded cutout on the bed. The bed will move into the magnet for the exam and you will hear a muffled knocking sound that will last for several minutes. During the scan, you can listen to the music of your choice. The most important thing you can do to make sure your exam is successful is to hold as still as you can throughout the procedure. The entire appointment will take about an hour and a half.
Learn more about Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
Minimally-invasive breast biopsies
Biopsies are utilized for the evaluation of new masses or findings on a mammogram or ultrasounds that are not generally felt as a lump. The biopsy of your breast will be guided by ultrasound (ultrasound guided core biopsy), mammographic imaging (stereotactic guided core biopsy) or MRI (MRI guided biopsy).
What to expect at your breast biopsy appointment
Biopsies of the breast are routinely performed at the Breast Center with the use of a local numbing agent. The appropriate imaging is utilized to identify the area that needs to be biopsied. A small needle is inserted into the area and samples of breast tissue are obtained through the needle. A small marker is then placed into the breast to mark the biopsy site. The procedure itself will take approximately 5-15 minutes depending on the type of biopsy that you are having. However, you can expect to be at your appointment for about 45-60 minutes from start to finish, as you will need to change before and after and have a gentle mammogram after the biopsy to confirm placement of the tissue marker.
High risk assessment
Ignoring your family history isn't worth the risk. Penn State Breast Center team can help you decrease your risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer.
Everyone has some risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer; however, the following factors may increase your risk:
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Strong family history of either disease
- Exposure to ionizing radiation
- Reproductive factors
- A personal history of breast cancer
About hereditary breast and ovarian cancer
Although the exact cause of cancer is still unclear, cancer is related to damage in our DNA or genes. Despite this connection with our genes, true hereditary cancer is rare. In hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOCS), a "mutation," or change, in a single gene can be passed from either parent to a child. This inherited mutation can greatly increase a person's chance of developing breast, ovarian, or other cancers.
Learning about your risk early may help you prevent cancer from occurring or detect it early when it is most treatable. Many women have found that understanding their inherited risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer provides a better opportunity—and additional options—to protect their health and the health of women in their family.
Through genetic consultation, Penn State Hershey Breast Center initiates the process to determine those at risk for HBOCS, providing support through each step of the process. If appropriate, genetic testing may be considered to determine if you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene alteration.
What to expect
Our team of specialists meets with individuals to obtain a personal and family medical history. Patients learn the significance of risk factors and the role genetics play in their cancer risk assessment.
Patients are provided a detailed plan of care tailored to their specific risk level. Personal plans may include a schedule of periodic mammograms, physical exams, breast MRI, prophylactic surgery, or preventative anti-hormone therapy. Tamoxifen and exemestane have been shown to decrease breast cancer incidence in women at higher than average risk of breast cancer.
Cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling require confidential and personalized care by a team of specialists. Counseling sessions provide more information about your risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
Our cancer risk assessment includes:
- Detailed family history evaluation
- Personal risk assessment for breast and ovarian cancer
- Genetic testing discussion (if applicable) including risks, benefits, and limitations
- Thorough review of personal screening and surveillance guidelines
- Full written report summarizing the patient's counseling sessions
Cancer risk counseling is tailored for each individual specifically based on the risk profile.
Our dedicated Penn State Hershey breast surgeons are always available for consultation with an order from your physician or healthcare provider.
Our breast radiologists will review your prior films and additional imaging may be performed, as appropriate. Recommendations are tailored to your individual situation.
If surgery is recommended to remove a benign or cancerous tumor, our goal is to conserve breast tissue and skin for satisfactory reconstruction. Our breast surgeons are skilled in the latest minimally invasive techniques, including sentinel node biopsies, cryoablation, and skin and nipple sparing mastectomies.
Understanding Preventive Mastectomies