Mammography is a method of examining breast tissue. Mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, but they can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible. Mammography is our most powerful breast cancer detection tool.
Mammograms use x-rays to create an image of the breast tissue that can reveal abnormalities long before you or your doctor can feel them. With digital mammography, the images are recorded directly into a computer. The image can then be viewed on a computer screen and specific areas can be enlarged or highlighted. If there is a suspicious area, the radiologist can use the computer to take a closer look.
In addition to digital mammography, University Hospital Breast Imaging Services offer ultrasound and breast MRI. These other important tools can and should be used as complementary tools, but there are no substitutes or replacements for a mammogram.
Why Is a Mammogram Done?
A mammogram is an invaluable tool in the detection and diagnosis of breast abnormalities, such as tumors or cysts. The test can detect lumps before you can feel them. Early detection is the key to effective treatment.
There are two types of mammograms:
- Screening mammograms, for women without symptoms, consist of two views of each breast. For some women, more than two pictures may be needed to include as much tissue as possible.
- Diagnostic mammograms, for women with symptoms or suspicious findings on a screening exam, are performed under the direction of a breast-imaging radiologist and may involve specialized views of the breast tissue.
A breast ultrasound is also used as a diagnostic tool to assist in characterizing abnormalities identified on a mammogram or palpable lumps. Breast MRI is used to further evaluate abnormalities identified by a mammogram and/or sonogram, and to screen women who are at higher risk for breast cancer than the general population or who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Before the Exam
You can schedule a screening mammogram without a referral from your physician if you are over age 40. A physician’s referral is required to schedule a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI.
If you have had previous mammograms or sonograms at another clinic, please bring the films and written reports to your appointment if they haven’t been sent to our office. Comparison with previous images allows for a more thorough evaluation.
For your comfort and privacy, it is recommended that you wear a comfortable two-piece outfit on the day of your appointment, as you will be asked to undress from the waist up. It is recommended that you not wear deodorants, powders, or creams on the day of your appointment, as some of these contain tiny metal particles (aluminum salts, etc.) that may be visible on the mammogram image. These “artifacts” may obstruct the view of the breast tissue.
If you have questions about a health condition that could affect your exam, or if you think you might be pregnant, please ask to speak to a radiology technologist or certified mammographer.
During the Exam
When you first arrive at the University Hospital Breast Imaging Services Clinic, you’ll check in and complete some paperwork. You will be escorted to a dressing room where you will change into a smock that opens in the front.
Most mammograms take only a few minutes to complete. Your certified mammographer will position you as you stand in front of a special x-ray machine utilized specifically for mammograms. Your breast will be placed in between two plastic plates, which will press the breast tissue to flatten it for the clearest x-ray image. You may be uncomfortable for a few seconds, but this is normal and necessary to get the best view of your breast tissue. Because of this discomfort, it’s a good idea to avoid scheduling a mammogram just prior to your menstrual period.
The mammographer will view the images on a computer screen in the room before presenting it to a radiologist for interpretation.
After the Exam
Every person’s breast tissue will have a unique appearance on a mammogram. If this is your first mammogram or previous studies are not available to reference, the radiologist may request additional images for further evaluation. This is very common; do not be alarmed if this occurs.
A radiologist will review all of your images and send a report to both you and your doctor, who will discuss the results with you. For a screening mammogram, your results are mailed within 3-5 business days. For a diagnostic mammogram, a radiologist will discuss your results with you and provide a written overview for your reference immediately following your appointment before you leave the clinic.
Request an Appointment
To speak to an Imaging Services representative or to schedule an appointment with Imaging Services, please call 214-645-XRAY (9729).