What is a Mammogram?
Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses low-dose x-ray system to examine breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is used to aid in the diagnosis of breast diseases in women.
Mammograms are used as a screening tool to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge.
Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Current guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) recommend screening mammography every year for women, beginning at age 40. Research has shown that yearly mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancers, when they are most curable and breast-conservation therapies are available.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) adds that women who have had breast cancer and those who are at increased risk due to genetic history of breast cancer should ask their doctor whether they should begin screening before age 40 and about the frequency of screening thereafter.
How to Schedule Your Mammogram
- Get a mammogram order from your physician
- Call our centralized scheduling number, (888) 367-2778 to schedule your appointment
- Seek financial-support information if you are concerned about how to afford a mammogram
Preparation and Procedure
Before scheduling a mammogram, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other specialty organizations recommend that you discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your doctor. In addition, inform your doctor of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer.
Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram is one week following your period. Always inform your doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
The ACS also recommends you:
- If your breasts are tender or sensitive to caffeine, avoid consuming it the day of your test.
- Do not wear deoderant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
- Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
Mammography is performed on an outpatient basis.
Upon arriving at the facility you will be asked for your physician order and the office attendant will verify with you your personal information and insurance information. You will be asked to take a seat until the technologist calls you back.
The technologist will then call you back and direct you to one of the private dressing rooms where you you will be asked to remove all clothing from the waist up (including jewelry). You will be given a gown to put on. There will be lockers with keys available for you to put your belongings until the test is completed.
During mammography, a specially qualified radiologic technologist will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast will be placed on a special platform and compressed with a paddle (often made of clear Plexiglass or other plastic). The technologist will gradually compress your breast.
Compression is necessary to even out breast thickness and spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities can be detected. It also helps prevent blurring of the image by holding the breast still.
The technologist will stand behind a glass shield during the x-ray exposure.
You will be asked to remain very still and hold your breath for a few seconds while the x-ray is taken. Your position will be changed slightly between image takes. The process will be repeated for the other breast.
When the testing is complete you will be asked to wait until the technologist determines that the images are of high enough quality for the radiologist to read.
Your physician should get the results of your mammogram in about two weeks. Check with your physician's office to see if they will be calling you about your results or if you have to contact them.
The examination process should take about 30 minutes.