A mammogram is a low dose x-ray of the breast used to detect abnormal changes in the breast tissue. This type of routine mammogram is for women who have no signs or symptoms of an abnormality. Women are encouraged to have a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35-39, and begin annual exams at age 40. Screening mammography should be used in conjunction with a clinical breast exam performed by your physician and monthly self breast exams.
The exam is performed in an upright position, usually standing. The mammography technologist will instruct you while they place your breast tissue in the best position to achieve maximum results for your exam, and typically two views of each breast will be obtained. The breast tissue is compressed between two plates on the machine. Compression spreads apart the tissue to give the radiologist better visualization of the anatomical structures within the breast. The applied compression will be held in place only a few seconds during the exposure, and then automatically released.
Mammograms make it possible to detect tumors that cannot yet be felt, and also microcalcifications (tiny calcium deposits) that can sometimes indicate the presence of cancer. To reduce discomfort if you have sensitive breasts, schedule your mammogram in the first two weeks following your menstrual cycle when your breasts are less tender.
Upon completion of your screening exam, the mammography technologist will review the images for quality. The radiologist will interpret your exam and send the results to your referring physician or provider, and we will notify you of the outcome as well. If there is an area that raises any question for the radiologist that needs further clarification, they may recommend you return for further exams such as a diagnostic mammogram.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a screening & a diagnostic mammogram?
Screening: A yearly exam performed when the patient has no clinical symptom or history of breast cancer. A screening can be done on a patient with a history of breast cancer if the affected breast was removed (Mastectomy) and 5 years has passed since the Mastectomy. The recommendation for baseline screening is at 35 years of age. This can be an insurance issue so have the patient check if they are younger than 35.
Diagnostic: An exam done when a patient has a specific new finding or is being followed at the recommendation of either the radiologist or a surgeon. A diagnostic can also be ordered for any patient with a history of breast cancer. A diagnostic mammogram is always done on patients who had a lumpectomy and on patients who have had a mastectomy within the past 5 years. A diagnostic mammogram includes the same four standard views as a screening mammogram; in addition, it includes other specialized views. It will be seen by the radiologist while the patient is still in the office.
How do I prepare for my mammogram? Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion to your exam.
When and how will the patient get results? A letter will be mailed to the patient within 30 days giving the final assessment results as mandated by the FDA. A delay can occur when comparison films are not available at the time of service. If the patient is required to return for additional imaging, they are notified by phone.
Why does your office need my previous mammogram films? One of the most important parts of mammography is proving stability over time. This is done by having the radiologist compare the old exam with the new exam to exclude subtle differences in the breast tissue. The actual mammography films are needed for this, not just the report.
Once a patient has a diagnostic or abnormal mammogram, do their future mammograms always need to be diagnostic? No. The radiologist will investigate clinical symptoms and will follow any mammographic and/or sonographic findings until they can say that it is either benign or needs to be biopsied. If the patient has a biopsy that is benign, they can return to having screening mammograms at their surgeon’s discretion.
If a patient has implants or had breast reduction, is it ordered as a screening or diagnostic? It is up to the referring physician to decide whether it is a diagnostic or screening mammogram.
To schedule a Mammogram please contact Main Scheduling at (239) 624-4443