Current Recommendations for Breast Imaging of the Pregnant and Lactating Patient

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2021 Jun;216(6):1462-1475. doi: 10.2214/AJR.20.23905. Epub 2020 Aug 5.


During pregnancy and lactation, the breast undergoes unique changes that manifest as varied clinical and imaging findings. Understanding the expected physiologic changes of the breast as well as recognizing the best imaging modalities for a given clinical scenario can help the radiologist identify the abnormalities arising during this time. Discussion with the patient about the safety of breast imaging can reassure patients and improve management. This article reviews the physiologic changes of the breast during pregnancy and lactation; the safety and utility of various imaging modalities; upto-date consensus on screening guidelines; recommendations for diagnostic evaluation of breast pain, palpable abnormalities, and nipple discharge; and recommendations regarding advanced modalities such as breast MRI. In addition, the commonly encountered benign and malignant entities affecting these patients are discussed.

Keywords: breast imaging; lactation; pregnancy; pregnancy-associated breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mammography
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography, Mammary