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Screening Mammogram

Screening Mammography is a specific type of breast imaging that uses low-dose x-rays to detect cancer early—before women experience symptoms—when it is most treatable. Mammography plays a central part in the early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before you or your physician can feel them. The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) recommend annual mammograms for women over 40. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) adds that women who have a personal or family history of breast cancer should talk to their doctor about when they should begin screening. Screening mammograms are ordered for women with no concerning symptoms such as no lumps, nipple discharge or skin changes.

What to Bring

  • Your physician order (if you were given an order from your physician)
  • Personal ID
  • Insurance Card(s)

How to Prepare

  • If you have tender breasts the week before your period, it is best to schedule your mammogram one week following your menstrual cycle.
  • If possible, please inform scheduling department of location of prior mammogram so we can send for your previous images and have them available for the radiologist to compare at the time of your current mammogram.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit so you only have to remove your top.
  • Do not use deodorant, talcum powder, or lotion under your arms or near the breasts. These products may show up as an artifact on the image.
  • Please leave valuable jewelry at home.
  • If there is any chance of pregnancy, please inform the technologist.
  • If you wear an on-body device (insulin pump, insulin regulators, Neulasta, other chemo/insulin devices, etc), you must inform your x-ray technologist. These devices cannot be in the x-ray room during the exam.
  • If you have a bruise or a rash to the breast area on day of appointment, you may need to reschedule until area is healed.

What to Expect

  • A specially qualified radiologic technologist will bring you into a dressing room to verify your information and go over prior breast history.
  • You will be asked to remove your clothes above the waist, and you will be given a cloth gown for the test.
  • Once in the exam room the technologist will ask to look at your breast to mark any raised moles, note any scars, and check for bruising and/or rashes.
  • During your mammography exam, your breast will be placed on a special platform and compressed with a clear plastic paddle. The technologist will gradually compress your breast, and do their best to maintain your comfort.
  • Breast compression is necessary in order to:
    • Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized.
    • Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities are less likely to be hidden by overlying breast tissue.
    • Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged.
    • Hold the breast still in order to minimize blurring of the imaged caused by motion.
    • Reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of the picture.
  • You will be asked to change positions between images. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view and an angled side view. During positioning, you may be asked to lift your arm or use your hand to hold your other breast out of the way.
  • During the exposure you must hold very still and may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while the x-ray picture is taken.
  • You will need to allow 30 minutes from registration to completion of test.
  • Results are usually available to your ordering physician in 24 hours.
  • Results will also be mailed to you by the facility.
  • Please note that follow–up examinations may be necessary if your screening mammogram shows a potential area of concern. Your radiologist may recommend further diagnostic tests that include additional mammography views and/or ultrasound.