Breast Services: Screening Mammogram
A screening mammogram is an x-ray exam of the breast on a woman who has no signs or symptoms of a problem. The goal of a screening mammogram is to find cancer when it is still too small to be felt by a woman or her doctor. Finding small breast cancers early by a screening mammogram greatly improves a woman’s chance for successful treatment. A screening mammogram usually takes 2 x-ray pictures (views) of each breast. Some patients may need more pictures to get as much breast tissue as possible.
Women between the ages of 35-39 should have a baseline mammogram. Beginning at the age of 40 and older, a woman should have a mammogram every year. Women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer should talk with their health care providers about the age that they should start having mammograms and the frequency.
Once your screening exam is completed, you may leave. The radiologist will read your exam and determine if you need to come back for further tests. The test results will be sent to both you and your referring physician usually within three weeks (usually one week). If additional tests are needed, please expect a phone call from us.
Women with breast implants should continue to have mammograms. It is important to inform the mammography facility about breast implants when scheduling the mammogram. If the technologist performing the procedure is aware a woman has breast implants, steps can be taken to make sure that as much breast tissue as possible can be seen on the mammogram.
In order to receive a mammogram at the CBC, a woman must have an order from their physician. You may bring this in at the time of your visit or your physician can fax it to our center. 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 calcium spots. Please describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam. If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available at the time of the exam. Also let us know if you think you may be pregnant.
We recommend for menstruating women that they schedule their mammogram during the first two weeks of their cycle. The best time for a mammogram is one week following your period.
During mammography, a specially qualified radiologic technologist will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast will be placed on a special platform (often made of clear Plexiglas or other plastic). You will feel pressure on your breast as it is squeezed between the compression paddles. Some women with sensitive breasts may experience discomfort. Be sure to inform the technologist if pain occurs as compression is increased. If discomfort is significant, less compression will be used.
Breast compression is necessary in order to keep the breast still to minimize blurring of the image caused by motion, even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized and spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities may be seen.
The technologist will stand behind a glass shield during the x-ray exposure. You will be asked to change positions between images. The routine pictures are top-to-bottom views and side views for each breast.
Five percent to 15 percent of screening mammograms require more testing such as additional mammograms or ultrasounds. Most of these tests turn out to be normal. If there is an abnormal finding, a biopsy may need to be performed. Most of the biopsies confirm that no cancer was present.