A mammogram is a type of low-dose X-ray used to examine breast tissue in a non-invasive way, and, with it, physicians search for irregular breast tissue.
Why Is Mammography Important?
Mammography is an important tool in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, particularly in women. If you have mammograms done on a regular basis (every year or two if you're a woman over 40), your doctor (and our radiologists) can compare present and past studies to see if anything changes over time. If you have a family history of breast cancer you are at increased risk yourself, according to the National Cancer Institute.
What To Expect
Patients generally undress from the waist up and change into a gown. Small adhesive circles may be applied to your nipple to mark the area on the breast images. Wire-like strips or other markers may also be placed on moles, scars or other skin abnormalities so we can clearly identify these areas on the resulting breast images.
The breast is gently compressed during this painless 30-minute procedure as it sits upon, or between, image plates that contain the film. By compressing the breast, its thickness is evened out and produces the clearest possible x-ray while requiring a lower dose of radiation.
Most mammographies involve two images of each breast, taken at different angles to provide two dimensions of contrast.
Preparations For A Mammogram (American Cancer Society Guidelines)
- Bring a list of the places, dates of mammograms, biopsies, or other breast treatments you have had before.
- If you have had mammograms at another facility, you should make every attempt to get those mammograms to bring with you to the new facility (or have them sent there) so that they can be compared to the new ones.
- On the day of the exam, don't wear deodorant or antiperspirant; some of these contain substances that can interfere with the reading of the mammogram by appearing on the x-ray film as white spots.
- You may find it more convenient to wear a skirt or pants, so that you'll only need to remove your blouse for the exam.
- Schedule your mammogram when your breasts are not tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort and to assure a good picture. Try to avoid the week just before your period.
- Always describe any breast symptoms or problems that you are having to the technologist who is doing the mammogram. Be prepared to describe any pertinent medical history such as prior surgeries, hormone use, family or personal history of breast cancer. Also discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your doctor or nurse before having a mammogram.
- If you do not hear from your doctor within 10 days, do not assume that your mammogram was normal -- call your doctor or the facility.
How Will I Learn the Results?
One of our outstanding radiologists will study your mammogram. This physician will analyze your images and report back to your doctor. The results of your test may confirm a diagnosis, or create the need for further tests in some cases. Sometimes, a second mammogram may be ordered by your physician, which is not cause for alarm but, rather, a need to confirm a diagnosis or rule out a problem.
While we provide extensive reporting to your physician, we urge you to take as active a role as possible in your own health care. By being pro-active about your own health care, and your own health, you can help make sure that your family, and your physicians, know and understand as much about your health as possible. In the event of an emergency, this advice could help save your life.