Diagnostic labs in Denver

The diagnostic imaging department at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center provides comprehensive laboratory and diagnostic services in the Denver metro area. Our services will pinpoint any problem areas, while our staff accommodates and assists you along the way.

Breast diagnostic tests we offer

  • The Breast Care Center at Presbyterian/St. Luke's has the latest, state-of-the-art equipment for diagnosis and treatment of breast disease.
  • Digital mammography—the new standard in mammography featuring shorter exam time, faster results, greater image flexibility and higher accuracy.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the wide-bore tunnel—the most advanced capabilities of any system to accommodate claustrophobic patients without sacrificing image quality.
  • Breast ultrasound—enabling high clarity of the smallest details and allowing full-image optimization to distinguish tumor types.
  • PET/CT scanner—integrating a Positron Emission Tomography scanner with a multi-slice Computed Tomography scanner allows physicians to "see and treat" tumors.
  • Digital radiography and fluoroscopy system—offering the highest-quality images with the lowest-dose radiation.

Breast cancer biopsies

Breast biopsies are necessary because while a breast lump may be detected in a physical breast exam or a mammogram, it may not be possible to tell if a breast mass is non-cancerous (benign), or malignant. Most breast biopsies reveal benign, non-cancerous results. 

Stereotactic (X-ray guided) breast biopsy

Stereotactic breast biopsies are sometimes necessary when mammography shows a mass, a cluster of microcalcifications (tiny calcium deposits closely grouped together) or another area of abnormal breast tissue that the mammogram cannot definitively show is benign. If this is the case, it may be necessary to obtain a tissue sample that can be examined microscopically to detect breast cancer cells.

In a stereotactic breast biopsy, a needle pierces the skin and goes into the suspicious region in your breast to obtain a tissue sample. A specialized digital mammography machine pinpoints the suspicious area. The procedure gets its name – stereotactic breast biopsy – because it uses two intersecting coordinates to locate where to place the needle. It is a much less invasive procedure than a full surgical breast biopsy.

Breast cancer is not found in most women who undergo a biopsy of their breast tissue. Stereotactic breast biopsies are minimally invasive, but anytime a needle penetrates your skin, there is a risk of bleeding. On the day of your procedure, have a friend or relative accompany you for support and then drive you home. Although the procedure itself only takes about 30 minutes, you will be in our department for about an hour and a half. Most patients experience only minor discomfort during the procedure.

Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy

In ultrasound-guided breast biopsies, the ultrasound images will pinpoint where the breast abnormality is so cells can be collected and analyzed.

Ultrasound-guided biopsies take less time than stereotactic breast biopsies. This method is used when the breast abnormality can be detected with ultrasound.

An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy uses an ultrasound probe moving across your breast that allows the radiologist to carefully guide a needle to the precise location of the breast mass. Like stereotactic biopsy, it is a much less invasive procedure than a full surgical breast biopsy.

Ultrasound-guided breast biopsies are minimally invasive, but anytime a needle penetrates your skin, there is a risk of bleeding. On the day of your procedure, have a friend or relative accompany you for support and then drive you home. You may be uncomfortable and experience some slight localized soreness during the procedure.

Breast exam using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Breast MRI is not a replacement for mammography or breast ultrasound imaging but is an additional breast cancer test used by radiologists to detect breast abnormalities as well as the staging of known breast cancer. Most breast abnormalities turn out to be non-cancerous.

Benefits of a breast MRI

  • A breast MRI is a non-invasive way to view the internal workings of the body without using x-rays. It uses magnetic waves to create cross-sectional, three-dimensional computerized breast images.
  • MRI breast images allow physicians to see conditions, including some small breast lesions, which may not be visible with other breast imaging methods.
  • An MRI of the breast can be particularly helpful for women with breast implants or women with dense breast tissue, in which breast cancer can be hard to detect with traditional mammograms.

The breast MRI machine has a movable bed and a special coil that cushions your breasts during the exam. The bed will move you into an enclosure that houses the magnet that takes the images. Our Breast Care Center uses a wide-bore MRI that helps alleviate any claustrophobia you may feel.

Breast ultrasound services

Breast ultrasounds are used to help diagnose abnormalities, such as breast lumps, that are found during a routine physical breast exam. Breast ultrasounds help further characterize certain mammographic findings. Most breast abnormalities are non-cancerous. We use the most advanced ultrasound technology to perform breast assessments for women.

Ultrasound for a breast abnormality can help determine whether a breast lump is a fluid-filled mass (which could be a benign breast cyst) or a solid mass (which can be either a cancerous or benign tumor).

Benefits of a breast ultrasound

  • Breast ultrasound (also called a breast sonogram) uses high-frequency sound waves to produce breast images.
  • Breast ultrasound does not use radiation. It produces images through high-frequency sound waves.
  • Ultrasound images can also show blood vessels in normal and abnormal breast tissues.
  • A breast ultrasound examination is usually painless and takes about a half-hour to complete.

Osteoporosis screening and bone densitometry

While not directly related to breast care, osteoporosis is a leading women's health concern. A bone density test makes sense as part of your routine health maintenance program. The Breast Care Center at Presbyterian/St. Luke's performs osteoporosis screening exams for Denver women, using bone densitometry (Dual X-ray Absorptiometry or DXA).

  • Approximately half of all women older than 50 years old experience bone loss and brittleness. Osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures that rob you of mobility and, ultimately, independence. It is a silent disease essentially without visible symptoms.
  • New government recommendations for osteoporosis screening specify that all women, 65 years old or older, get a routine bone density exam.
  • Any post-menopausal woman should be tested for osteoporosis if they have individual risk factors:
    • Parents that had bone fractures
    • A history of smoking or alcohol abuse
    • Slender frames
    • Caucasian ancestry

Early detection through a bone density scan (DXA) is the best way to protect yourself against osteoporosis. Images of your spine and hip—and sometimes your wrist—are taken in a simple, painless and non-invasive procedure. Your bone mineral density or bone mass can be determined from these images. The information will let your doctor know if you need to take specific steps to protect your bone health.

Preparing for DXA

A bone density scan (DXA) at the Breast Care Center at Presbyterian/St. Luke's does not require any special preparation and takes only 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Relax, your DXA technician is trained to make your osteoporosis screening go quickly and efficiently.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, preferably without metal buttons, buckles or zippers.
  • You will be asked to lie down on an exam table.
  • Bone densitometry requires that you lie perfectly still while an arm passes over the test area.
  • A board-certified radiologist will examine and interpret the bone density test images and communicate the results to your physician within a few days. You will also get written results in the mail.

All bone density scans are read and evaluated by radiologists in our Denver facility. Our safety program follows nationally-approved safety protocols that prevent accidental or excessive exposure, helping to ensure that you receive the lowest effective dose of radiation.