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Breast Imaging | Mammography

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that is used to look for and evaluate changes in the breast. A screening mammogram is performed when a patient is not experiencing any breast symptoms. A diagnostic mammogram is performed after a lump, or other abnormality is found. Breast abnormalities may include lumps, nipple discharge, pain, and skin or nipple changes.

A mammogram is performed by compressing the breast between two plates to thin it out and keep it from moving during the x-ray. This prevents the x-rays from being blurry and also reduces x-ray exposure.

Two or more images are taken of each breast. While this process can be uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, it is necessary in producing the best images and only lasts for a moment. The mammography images are then evaluated by a doctor specially trained in diagnosing diseases of the breast. The images are also processed with a computer-aided detection program (CAD) designed to point out areas for the doctor to examine more closely.

If a screening mammogram is found to be abnormal, a diagnostic mammogram is performed with specialized images to magnify or compress the area to evaluate it more completely.

Mammography is recommended on a yearly basis by the American College of Radiology for all women beginning at the age of 40. Women who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer may begin having mammograms at an earlier age as recommended by their physicians.

When used in conjunction with monthly self breast exams, mammography can detect up to (number) percentage of all cancers.

Mammography tips:

  • When evaluating a facility for your mammogram, choose a facility that is experienced in performing mammograms, is certified by the FDA, and has met all MQSA (Mammography Quality Assurance Standards) requirements.
  • If you have had a prior mammogram at another facility, you should bring your previous images with you on the day of your appointment or have them sent in advance so that the doctor will have them to compare to your current images. This may reduce the need to come back for additional images if a finding is seen on your mammogram. The best option is to have your mammogram performed at the same facility every year.
  • On the day of your mammogram do not wear powder or deodorant. These can affect the mammogram negatively.
  • Make sure to report any problems or changes in your breast to the technologist performing the mammogram. The doctor may also request additional information such as history of hormones, biopsy or surgery to the breast and family history of cancer. If you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, inform the technologist immediately.
  • After you have had your mammogram, you should receive a letter with your results. If you do not receive notification of your results within 10 days, please call. Do not assume that your mammogram was normal.
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