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With breast cancer incidence rates showing no signs of abating, advances in risk stratification and increasing awareness of cancer control, there is interest in expanding the breast imaging arsenal. Mammography is still the standard of care, and a recent meta-analysis of seven large studies supports its value as a screening tool. There is, however, clear need for improved sensitivity and specificity. Imaging of function, metabolism and molecular activity in breast tissue is of potential benefit in addressing these issues. In this article we provide an overview of the current methods of imaging in breast cancer, including mammography, ultrasound, digital mammography, magnetic resonance, positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Screening and surveillance should, ideally, be tailored to an individual's cancer risk and breast tissue. Current evidence questions the recent move toward magnetic resonance imaging as a single or multimodality strategy for breast cancer screening. In a high-risk group, the cost effectiveness of technical innovations may be justified.