There are currently more than 30,000 practicing radiologists in the United States. 5 Their practice involves a wide range of technologies that enable tumors to be detected, biopsied and tumor extent to be determined. Radiologists often specialize in either diagnostic radiology, which deals with the interpretation of images, or interventional/procedural radiology, which deals with providing therapeutic treatment for patients and often obtaining tissue biopsies. Breast imaging is a subspecialty of radiology that includes both diagnostic imaging such as mammography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well as interventional procedures such as image-guided breast biopsies.
2.1.1 Roles and Responsibilities of Radiologists
Radiologists play a key role in cancer diagnosis and clinical staging. As imaging technology improves, radiologists are able to detect smaller and therefore earlier tumors. Increasingly, radiologists also obtain diagnostic tissue from the patient and send it to the laboratory along with pertinent clinical information for further analysis by a pathologist. Additionally, radiologists conduct a range of imaging studies that can detect the presence of cancer metastases. This information is used to determine the stage of a patient’s cancer. Finally, radiologists are responsible for releasing reports of their findings that become part of the patients’ medical record.