Diagnostic and Screening Mammograms

Mammography is a type of exam that takes pictures of the inside of the breasts, utilizing x-ray technology. Very low doses of x-rays are used for mammography. Screening Mammograms are performed on patients who have no known problems with their breasts, to determine if there are any potentially hazardous cancer cells within the breast tissue. Many times, these cancerous cells are very small and cannot yet be felt by the patient. Screening Mammograms are generally recommended once a year, beginning at age 40. Diagnostic mammography is used to evaluate a patient with abnormal clinical findings—such as a breast lump or nipple discharge—that have been found by the woman or her doctor. Diagnostic mammography may also be performed after an abnormal screening mammogram in order to evaluate the area of concern on the screening exam.

How do I prepare for my Mammogram?

If you had prior exams performed at another facility, please bring your prior mammogram images with you on the day of the exam, so that the radiologist can compare them with your new images. These prior studies may be on film or compact disc. Don’t use underarm deodorant or any other kind of cream, lotion, ointment or powder before your mammogram. Particles in powders and deodorants can cause skewed results on your mammogram.

What can I expect the day of my exam?

Prior to your exam, you will change into an examination gown, usually in a dressing room with lockable lockers. You will be taken to an examination room where a registered mammography technologist will help position you for your breast exams. Each breast will be examined in two or three different views. For each view, your breast will be compressed by a plastic plate called a paddle. Compressing the breast often produces some discomfort for the brief time required to obtain the image, but the compression is important to get the best possible picture of the breast; in fact, some problems in the breast cannot be seen without compression. The exam usually takes about 15 minutes to complete.

When should I schedule my Mammogram?

If you have not been through menopause, the best time to schedule your mammogram is the week after your menstrual cycle. This is the time that your breasts are least likely to be tender. The breasts are most tender one week before and during your menstrual cycle.

diagnostic screening and mammograms
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