Need to Know
Nice to Know
Mammography: What to Expect
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is This Exam Done?
Screening mammography can detect breast changes which could signify very early breast cancer. The Radiologist will look for subtle changes in your breasts from previous imaging exams. Mammograms can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Research has shown that annual mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancers when they are most curable and the most breast-conservation therapies are available.
Diagnostic mammography is a problem-solving mammogram used to evaluate a patient with signs or symptoms such as lumps, nipple discharge, pain, dimpling or puckering of skin. It is also used to further evaluate an area of concern found on a screening mammogram. The images are interpreted (read) by a Radiologist at the time of the exam and the Mammographer will do additional imaging as directed. You will be advised of the results before leaving the facility.
What Will Happen During the Exam?
You will be asked to change completely into a gown. A Mammographer (a specially qualified radiologic technologist) will ask you several questions to review your history. These include questions about your family history, hormone usage and any previous breast surgery. Your breast will be placed on a special platform of the mammography unit and the Mammographer will gradually compress your breast, working with you to limit any discomfort. You will be asked to hold very still to limit motion on the images. The Mammographer will reposition you between images and check to ensure the images are well positioned and of good technical quality before discharging you.
How Should I Prepare?
- Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcifications (calcium spots) and you may need to return for additional imaging.
- Wear comfortable 2 piece clothing as you will be asked to remove all clothing above the waist and change into a gown
- Always inform the staff if you feel you may be pregnant
- Allow 30 minutes for a screening mammogram and 60 minutes for a diagnostic mammogram
- If you have a rash or sore on or beneath your breasts, you should postpone your routine exam until the rash/sore is gone or healed
What Are the Benefits and Risks?
The benefits of Digital Mammography:
- Imaging of the breast improves the ability to detect small tumors. Women have better treatment options when cancers are small.
- Micro-calcifications in the breast are best seen on mammograms
- Mammography increases the detection of small abnormal tissue growths representing early tumors as well as detecting invasive ductal and invasive lobular cancer
- Digital Mammography can improve the contrast between dense and non-dense tissue in the breast
Risks you should be aware of:
- About 10 % of Screening Mammograms require more testing such as a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound and most of these result in normal (negative) findings
- Abnormal findings may require a follow-up short-term mammogram or a biopsy. Most biopsies have normal results (negative) and confirm that no cancer was present
- Women with dense breast tissue may benefit from supplemental screening imaging such as Screening Breast Ultrasound or Breast MRI
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