Women’s imaging and testing



Overview of women's imaging and testing

At Dignity Health, your medical team of nurses, technicians, and radiologists may use imaging scans and diagnostic tests to pinpoint the cause of symptoms and guide treatment decisions. These tests and scans are frequently performed in the radiology, women’s imaging, or women’s diagnostic imaging department of our clinics. Find a Doctor and arrange your appointment today.

Common conditions

Women’s imaging and testing can be used to diagnose and treat:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Cancer
  • Endometriosis
  • Infertility
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pregnancy and fetal development
  • Pelvic pain
  • Uterine fibroids

Types

Available women’s imaging and testing services at Dignity Health include:

  • Bone density scan, a low radiation imaging test that checks bone health
  • BRCA (breast cancer gene) testing, to determine whether or not a woman with risk factors for breast cancer has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, which increase her chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer
  • Breast biopsy, the removal and examination of tissue to diagnose or rule out breast cancer
  • Breast MRI, a test used to screen for breast cancer, or to follow up on an abnormal mammogram or breast ultrasound
  • Stereotactic biopsy, a type of breast biopsy that uses mammogram technology to pinpoint the spot to be biopsied
  • Ultrasound guided biopsy, which uses ultrasound imaging to guide the biopsy needle to a precise location
  • Colposcopy, to check for precancerous and cancerous lesions on the cervix
  • Cone biopsy, a surgical procedure used to screen for and treat cervical cancer and cervical dysplasia
  • Gynecological ultrasound, or the use of ultrasound (sound waves) to see and evaluate the female reproductive organs
  • Pelvic ultrasound, which is done by moving an ultrasound probe over the skin of the lower stomach or pelvis
  • Transvaginal ultrasound, which uses an ultrasound probe that is inserted into the vagina
  • Laparoscopy, a procedure that allows providers to see inside the body using a lighted scope, which is inserted into the body through tiny incisions
  • Pelvic laparoscopy, the use of laparoscopy to see the organs inside the pelvis
  • Mammography (3D digital), a high-resolution x-ray of the breast used to look for breast cancer
  • Pre-surgical needle or wire localization, a procedure used to mark an abnormal area in the breast during imaging so doctors can quickly and easily find it during surgery

Risks

Imaging tests are considered very low risk. Common types of imaging, like x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT, and PET scans essentially take a picture of your internal organs, bones, or other tissues noninvasively, without causing any damage.

Some of these scans use radioactive materials to create an image, with some (like CT scans) using more than others (like x-rays). A small amount of radiation exposure is relatively harmless (for example, we are all exposed to natural radiation in the air, in building materials, and from sunlight every day), but a lot of radiation exposure can have negative effects on babies in the womb and young children. If you are pregnant, or think you may be pregnant, you should always discuss this with your doctor before undergoing imaging-based diagnostic tests.

Some other kinds of diagnostic testing, like biopsies, require the removal of a small portion of tissue. These are small, straightforward procedures that are usually done under local anesthesia, which numbs the area around the biopsy site. While complications from this kind of procedure are very rare, any procedure carries some risk, such as infection or an allergic reaction to the anesthesia.

These procedures are commonly used to rule out serious diseases like cancer, so the benefits of fast and accurate diagnoses typically far outweigh any potential risks.

Regardless of the type of scan or test you get, your doctor will be happy to discuss what to expect and any potential risks with you during your appointment. 

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.