A mammography is an X-ray of the breast to detect for breast cancer. Breast tissue is squeezed thinly between two firm plates from which an X-ray image is taken.
A screening mammogram is done to detect for any breast tissue changes in women without signs or symptoms.
A diagnostic mammogram is used to investigate for suspicious findings such as nipple discharge or inversion, changes in breast tissue, breast pain, or lump found. This mammogram includes additional images.
We screen women starting at 40 years old, annually. Exceptions to this may change if a woman has a strong family history, signs, and symptoms, etc.
Safety and Risks
- Like X-rays, mammograms expose you to low-dose radiation, typically the benefit outweighs the risk.
- Mammograms are not 100% accurate. Accuracy depends on the tech, age and breast density to name a few. Some may result in false-negative or false-positive results.
- Additional testing. About 10% of mammograms require additional testing with ultrasound and/or biopsy. Most abnormal findings are not cancer. If you have an abnormal mammogram, your radiologist will want to compare with previous images.
- Mammograms may not catch all cancers due to small size or location. Some may be felt by physical exam alone or located in your armpit where the machine does not go. They can miss 1 in 5 cancers in women.
What to Expect
- You may be asked to wear a gown, remove clothing and jewelry from the waist up.
- The technician will position your body, lift one breast and put it on the platform. She will adjust the height setting to meet your body height. Your breast is pressed against a clear firm platform. If you feel too much pain, let the technician know. Adequate pressure is needed to ensure a good image.
- The test typically takes about 30 minutes to complete. You may resume all activities as normal. You may be asked to sit and wait which a tech reviews images to make sure they are all acceptable.
- It is required mammogram results are reported within 30 days to patients but you may hear back sooner.
- The images will be sent to a radiologist for interpretation which then gets sent back to your doctor for them to review with you.
Mammogram. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mammogram/about/pac-20384806 Accessed January 28, 2019.
Mammogram. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/mammograms-fact-sheet Accessed January 28, 2019.