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 400 Patroon Creek Blvd., Suite 104, Albany, NY 12206 | (518) 239-5200 

Your Health, Your Answers

Frequently Asked Questions

Breast Imaging

There seem to be a lot of different exams, screenings, procedures—how do I know which I'm supposed to get?

First off, you've got to visit your doctor to get a referral. You and your doctor will determine which test is right for you based on factors like age, symptoms, prior history, and other risk factors. If you don't currently have a primary physician, please reach out to us. We'll help you start the process. 

At Akira, we provide multiple screening and diagnostic exams. Each is safe, effective, and offers unique, essential insight into overall breast health.

  • Mammogram: A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray used to get a good look at what's happening inside the breast. Mammograms are literally life-savers because they can detect cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is most effective.
  • CESM: Contrast-Enhanced Spectral Mammography (CESM) uses contrast dye to detect abnormalities in blood flow, an indication that cancer might be present. Generally, CESM comes into play if a standard mammogram is inconclusive.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses soundwaves to produce detailed images of the breast. Most often, an ultrasound is used to further explore a mass detected during a mammogram or other screening exam. The ultrasound can help determine whether a mass might be fluid-filled or solid, a crucial distinction when proceeding toward a cancer diagnosis--though no definitive diagnosis is made without conducting a biopsy.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure where we take a tiny tissue sample from a breast abnormality for further, more detailed analysis. We offer two types of biopsy: stereotactic and ultrasound. In a stereotactic biopsy, x-rays are used to help guide the radiologist performing the procedure. In comparison, an ultrasound-guided biopsy uses ultrasound imaging. Both methods are minimally invasive. Though there is a needle involved, the area of the breast that gets pricked is numbed beforehand. Most people don't find it very painful.
What is the difference between a screening and a diagnostic exam?

It's akin to getting your brakes serviced. A screening is like getting them checked because you've driven a certain number of miles since your last maintenance. A diagnostic is when you get them checked because they're acting funny, they've started squeaking etc. 

  • In a screening, we look for signs of breast cancer in women who are not experiencing symptoms (see below). For most women this is a screening mammogram. These breast exams are generally conducted annually or biannually and rarely lead to a cancer diagnosis. 
  • A diagnostic exam is conducted when a screening mammogram or ultrasound detects an abnormality or when a woman is experiencing symptoms indicative of breast cancer. Diagnostic exams provide additional images of the breast and offer specific insight into breast tissue health, including whether any detectable mass is fluid-filled or solid—an important indicator when making a cancer determination. 
How do I know if I am "average risk?" And how often should I have a mammogram?

Suppose you have no history of breast cancer, nor do any of your close relatives, no known genetic mutation (i.e., BRCA gene), and you haven't had chest radiation therapy before age 30. In that case, you're considered average risk, and we recommend you follow the guidelines below.   

  • Women ages 40–44: Annual screenings optional
  • Women ages 45–54: Screenings annually
  • Women aged 50+: Option to switch to biannual screenings (every two years)
How do I know if I am considered "high-risk," and what are the screening guidelines for me?

Suppose you or a close relative have a history of breast cancer or a genetic mutation (i.e., BRCA gene). In that case, your doctor will discuss whether you should begin screenings before age 40 or if additional imaging might be beneficial to you.

What are some signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
  • Swelling of all or part of a breast with or without a lump
  • Skin dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Inverted nipple
  • Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (Sometimes breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)

Important note: Though performing routine self-checks and knowing and recognizing indicators of breast cancer is very valuable, self-exams should never take the place of regular screenings. Mammograms can sometimes detect cancer before symptoms appear. And early detection is everything in the fight against breast cancer.  

If I detect any signs or symptoms, what should I do?
  • Immediately reach out to your doctor to receive a script and determine which screening or diagnostic exam is right for you.
  • If you don't have a primary physician, please reach out to us. We'll help you get the help you need.    


Do mammograms hurt?

An essential part of performing an accurate mammogram is compressing the breast. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but only for a few seconds. Our goal is to minimize your momentary discomfort and maximize that feeling that you're doing something good for yourself. Because you are!

Do I need a referral for a mammogram?


How long does a mammogram take?

10-20 minutes

Any special dietary preparation?

Nope. You can eat and drink normally leading up to the exam.

What should I wear?

Comfy clothes, no jewelry, and no oils or lotions if possible.

When do I get my mammogram results

For a screening mammogram you should get your results within two weeks. For a diagnostic mammogram, your results will be available same-day. 

Breast Ultrasound

Do Breast Ultrasounds hurt?

Nope. Unlike a mammogram, ultrasound technology allows us to image the breast without compressing it. 

Do I need a referral for a breast ultrasound?


How long does an ultrasound take?

15-30 minutes

Any special dietary preparation?

Nope. You can eat and drink normally leading up to the exam.

What should I wear?

Comfy clothes, no jewelry, and no oils or lotions if possible.


Pelvic Ultrasound

Will my pelvic ultrasound hurt?

We offer two types of pelvic ultrasound at Akira: transabdominal and transvaginal. A transabdominal ultrasound is similar to a breast ultrasound in that the feeling of the ultrasound wand on the skin is generally not uncomfortable unless the area of the scan is already sore. 

A transvaginal ultrasound is different. A probe is inserted in the vagina, which can be mildly uncomfortable for some.

Do I need a referral for a pelvic ultrasound?


How long does a pelvic ultrasound take?

30 minutes

Any special dietary preparation?

Your referring doctor will let you know if you need to alter your eating or drinking habits prior to the exam.

What should I wear?

Comfy clothes, no jewelry, and no oils or lotions if possible.


Breast Biopsy

Does a breast biopsy hurt?

Because we use a local anesthetic to numb the breast, you’ll feel the initial prick of the numbing needle–but that’s about it. Most report little discomfort during or after the procedure.  

Do I need a referral for a breast biopsy?


How long does it take?

20-60 minutes

Any special dietary preparation?

None. Please eat and drink normally prior to your appointment

What should I wear?

Comfy clothes, sports bra, no jewelry, and no oils or lotions if possible.

When do I get my Breast Biopsy results?

5-12 days. We’ll set up an appointment to review your results together.      

Bone Density (DEXA) Scan

Does a Bone Density (DEXA) scan hurt?

Not at all.

Do I need a referral for a bone density (DEXA) scan?


How long does it take?

10-20 minutes

Any special dietary preparation?

Avoid taking calcium supplements or loading up on especially calcium rich foods 24 hours prior to the exam.

What should I wear?

Comfy clothes without lots of metallic buttons or zippers.

When do I get my bone density (DEXA) scan results?

1-2 weeks


Are wellness services covered by insurance?

We’re happy to be able to offer integrated wellness services at Akira, but most of these services are not covered by insurance. We partner with third party vendors who set their own per-hour or per-program fee.


How do I know if my exam or procedure will be covered by my insurer?

Always contact your insurance provider directly if you are unsure whether or not any medical visit is covered under your policy. 

Patient Navigation / Nurse Navigators

How do I get one?

If you receive a positive diagnosis through Akira, we’ll connect you with a nurse navigator.

What does a navigator do?

Lots of things. Our patient navigators are certified breast health nurses that offer consistent support to our patients. They might schedule appointments, communicate with doctors, track down available resources for a patient, help deal with insurance providers, help manage any language, literacy, transportation or financial obstacles that a patient might face. 

A navigator is someone that you can rely on. Someone who can provide both emotional and practical support during a difficult time.