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What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast and is the most useful exam to screen for cancer and any changes in the breast from year to year using very little radiation. Breast cancer is much easier to treat when the cancer is still small. A mammogram has the ability to detect even the smallest traces of cancer resulting in the ability to treat the cancer in its earlier stages and giving patients a better chance of a full recovery. A board certified radiologist specializing in mammography and other radiology procedures will look at the X-ray picture for signs of breast cancer or other breast changes. These changes can be small and hard to see; therefore, it is recommended to have a mammogram every year. This allows the radiologist to compare your mammograms from year to year and easily detect any changes. Guidelines suggest a woman start annual screening mammograms at the age of 40.

Screening mammograms are for women with no known breast related problems. After the completion of the mammogram, the patient is allowed to leave and results are mailed to their home, as well as to the referring physician, within five to seven working days.

Diagnostic mammograms are for women with breast concerns. These women are asked to wait while films are reviewed by our radiologist to determine if further testing is needed. These results are given to the patient before leaving the Breast Care Center.

What are the preps for a mammogram?

There are no preps required for a mammogram. A mammogram may be uncomfortable for some women if they have sensitive breasts. If the patient is still menstruating, make plans to have the mammogram the week after her period, when breasts are less tender. The patient needs to wear a shirt that can be taken off easily and she will be given a robe to wear until the exam is finished. Please do not use any type of deodorant, talcum powder, or lotion on underarms or breast.

How is the exam performed?

The technologist will complete a patient history form and answer any questions the patient may have, including personal history of breast surgeries or breast cancer. They will also ask if the patient is having any current breast problems and a family history of breast cancer. They will need the dates of previous mammograms and the location of those films if their previous exam was not at the Breast Care Center. Next, the patient will stand in front of the mammography machine and the technologist will place the breast on a platform for pictures in a least two views. She will use a clear plastic plate to compress the breast while the picture is taken. This will not harm the breast in any way and by flattening the breast it reduces the amount of X-rays needed. Although it may be uncomfortable, it should not hurt.