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Breast Imaging

UC San Diego Health offers comprehensive breast imaging for women and men. With our advanced technologies and imaging expertise, your care team can detect disease early, when treatments are most effective. We can also help you avoid unnecessary procedures.

Nationally Recognized Breast Imaging

ACR badge

Look to us for comprehensive breast imaging because we are recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR). This designation recognizes our skill in using screening, diagnostic and interventional radiology techniques to improve breast care. Fewer than 6 percent of all breast imaging centers in California have earned this recognition.

Breast Specialists

At UC San Diego Health, you find board-certified radiologists with specialized training in breast imaging. Our radiologists have dedicated their careers to breast health so you may receive:

  • Fewer false positives from imaging studies
  • Fewer unnecessary invasive procedures
  • Earlier detection of breast cancer 
  • A more sophisticated understanding of your health status 

Imaging Tests

We offer all types of breast imaging tests. These tests may be used for screening or diagnostic purposes.


We use digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, for your routine screening mammograms. Traditional 2D mammography (X-rays) is used as another option when needed. A diagnostic mammogram may be recommended if your screening mammogram shows unusual changes in your breast.

Breast Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to look more closely at masses, cysts, or ductal abnormalities. A breast ultrasound can tell your doctor whether you have a solid tumor or fluid-filled cyst.

Breast MRI

If you are at higher risk of breast cancer, your UC San Diego Health doctor may recommend having both a mammogram and a breast MRI. Together, these tests can help detect cancer early. You may also have a breast MRI prior to surgery for breast cancer.

Molecular Breast Imaging

Molecular breast imaging, also known as breast-specific gamma imaging, is an alternative to MRI. The test, performed by our nuclear medicine specialists, uses a radioactive tracer and special camera to see cancerous tissue in the breast more clearly. Like breast MRI, molecular breast imaging may be recommended for high-risk individuals or those with dense breast tissue.

Image-Guided Procedures 

When your breast imaging does not conclusively diagnose your condition, your doctor may want to investigate. Our interventional radiologists offer a full spectrum of procedures that incorporate imaging techniques such as ultrasound or MRI to improve the accuracy of the procedure. Image-guidance is used in many procedures to diagnose and treat disease.


If you have a suspicious area in your breast, your doctor may recommend a breast biopsy to directly sample breast tissue. A biopsy involves removing a small amount of tissue or fluid from the suspicious area and examining the cells under a microscope. A biopsy is the only way to directly tell whether cells are cancerous or benign. 


If you have unexplained clear or bloody spontaneous nipple discharge, you may be referred for ductography. Ductography uses contrast dye to help visualize what is going on inside your breast.


Should you need breast surgery, our radiologists may help your surgeon precisely locate your lesion by marking the location of your tumor with a needle, wire or tiny reflector. Localization helps to ensure all cancerous tissue is removed. It may also prevent cosmetic disfigurement. UC San Diego Health was the first in the region to offer wireless localization.

Advancing Care

logo for Wisdom breast health study Help us save lives with better breast cancer screening. Learn more at

As the region's only academic medical center, your UC San Diego Health doctors and their colleagues at UC San Diego School of Medicine are actively researching new ways to improve breast imaging and save lives lost to breast cancer. 

You may have an opportunity to participate in a research study to improve our understanding of breast health and cancer screening. In some cases, you may also be able to receive early access to a new imaging technology or approach through participation in a clinical trial. Learn more about clinical trials at UC San Diego Health.

About Breast Imaging

For general information about breast imaging, visit our Health Library:

Appointments & Referrals

  • 619-543-3405 (Mammograms, Breast Ultrasound and MRI)
  • 619-543-1986 (Molecular Breast Imaging)
  • 858-822-6126 (Biopsies and Other Image-Guided Procedures)
  • For Referring Physicians


Breast Imaging Locations

La Jolla Hillcrest Rancho Bernardo

Athena Breast Health Network Logo 

Athena Breast Health Network is a partnership between all five University of California medical centers, dedicated to saving lives by transforming how breast cancer screening, prevention and treatment is delivered.

Better breast health begins with completing Athena's questionnaire prior to your annual screening mammogram. By telling us your personal story, we can provide a personal roadmap to guide your breast cancer prevention, screening or treatment plan.