Understanding Mammography

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram, often called "the picture that can save your life," is a safe, low-dose X-ray that is able to detect irregularities in the breast that neither you nor your doctor can feel. To take your mammogram, the technologist will have you stand in front of the X-ray machine and place your breast between two plastic plates. These plates will compress your breast while the X-ray is taken.

Note: Do not wear deodorant, lotion or powder to your mammogram appointment. These items can show on an X-ray and confuse the findings.

Will it hurt?

The technologist will take great care to make you as comfortable as possible, but it is necessary for the breast to be well compressed. Remember, any discomfort will only be for a few seconds.

What is the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?

A screening mammogram is designed to be fast and relatively low-cost. Screening mammograms are routine tests done yearly for women who do not have any breast symptoms.

A diagnostic mammogram is done for women who have breast implants, have had a previous cancer, or are having breast symptoms.

If you have a diagnostic mammogram, you will be asked to wait while the radiologist views your films. Do not be alarmed if the radiologist wishes you to have more mammography views taken, or an ultrasound scan of the breast to clarify the findings. For most women these additional studies simply prove that there is no cause for concern.

What are some of the possible signs and symptoms of which I should be aware?

Symptoms of breast disease include a lump that you can feel, nipple discharge, breast pain, a suspicious area noted on a screening mammogram, or generalized swelling of part of the breast. Increase your chances for early detection of breast cancer by:

  1. Perform a breast self-exam every month.
  2. Have a clinical breast exam conducted by a healthcare professional every year.
  3. If warning signs appear such as pain, a lump you can feel or nipple discharge, see your doctor immediately.
  4. Talk with your doctors about ways to reduce your risk.
  5. Set a schedule of regular, annual mammograms.

Will I always need to have a yearly mammogram?

YES! The risk of breast cancer increases sharply with age. Most doctors recommend that you begin having yearly mammograms at age 40.

Be a partner in your health decisions

Women must be their own best advocates and take responsibility for their health. A good way to do that is by committing to routine screening exams, such as Pap smears and mammograms, as recommended by your doctor.

If you have questions, concerns, (or compliments!) about our mammography service, please call us. We look forward to seeing you again.

Call the Women's Health Imaging Center to schedule your appointment
for your mammogram, bone density test, ultrasound exam, breast biopsy or automated whole breast volume scan (ABVS)

Click here for the mammography brochure