• Frequently Asked Questions about Mammography

    What is a mammogram?

    A mammogram, sometimes called a mammo, is an X-ray picture of the breast that allows a doctor to have a closer look for changes in breast tissue that can’t be felt during a breast exam.

    Mammography is used as a cancer screening tool for the early detection of breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms, as well as women who have breast symptoms, such as a change in shape or size of breast lumps.

    What are the different types of mammograms?

    There are the two different types of mammograms: screening and diagnostic.

    Screening mammogram

    A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who don’t have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. While it isn’t meant to diagnose cancer, screening mammography is used to determine if additional evaluation is necessary.

    Diagnostic mammogram

    Similar to a screening mammogram, a diagnostic mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. The difference is that diagnostic mammography provides a more detailed view of the breast tissue.

    A diagnostic mammogram is used to diagnose unusual breast changes and evaluate abnormalities detected on a screening mammogram.

    What is 3D mammography or digital mammography?

    3D mammography, which is also called digital breast tomography, uses an X-ray rotation around the breast to create an image of the entire breast. This technology reduces false positive readings and improves early detection.

    Learn more about 3D digital mammography.

    Why is mammography so important?

    Screening mammography is an important tool in detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible stage, before there are any symptoms.

    Early breast cancer detection means treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it can spread to other areas. Survival rates are much higher when cancer is detected in its beginning stages rather than late stages.

    When should I have my first mammogram?
    How often should I have a mammogram?

    The American College of Radiology recommends having your first mammogram at age 40, then once a year after that.

    If your mother has or had breast cancer, you should start monitoring your breast health using mammography 10 years before the age your mother was first diagnosed with the disease or at age 40, whichever is earliest.

    What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

    The following conditions can be symptoms of breast cancer:

    • A lump or mass in the breast or a lump in the underarm area
    • Swelling of the breast
    • Skin irritation, redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
    • Breast or nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
    • Nipple discharge other than milk

    See your physician if you detect any of these symptoms.

    How do you know if you are at a high risk for breast cancer?

    Being a woman is the biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer, though men can also get the disease. Breast cancer is also strongly related to age. As we get older, our risk increases, which are why we recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40.

    Other risk factors include having a family or personal history of breast cancer, having dense breast tissue, early menstruation before age 12 and late menopause after age 55.

    How is a mammogram done? Are mammograms painful?

    To get a mammogram, you stand in front of a special X-ray machine. The radiology technician will then place your breasts, one at a time, between an X-ray plate and a plastic plate.

    These plates are attached to the X-ray machine and compress the breasts to flatten them. This is done to spread the breast tissue out, which provides a clearer picture. You will feel slight pressure for a few seconds, but no significant pain.

    Usually two pictures are taken of each breast – one from the side and one from above.

    A screening mammogram takes about 15–20 minutes from start to finish.

    Is there a risk of radiation exposure from having regular mammograms?

    The mammogram procedure is safe: There's only a very small amount of radiation exposure from a mammogram, even less than a standard chest X-ray.

    The benefits of mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure.

    How do I get started?

    To learn more about mammography or to schedule a mammogram, click the button below or call 877-230-6877.

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