A mammography exam, also called a mammogram, is an X-ray of your breast that helps physicians diagnose breast diseases, such as cancer.
Mammograms are most commonly used to:
- Screen for breast cancer if you are experiencing no symptoms
- Detect breast disease if you are experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain, or nipple discharge
Studies show that yearly mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancers, when they are potentially more curable and breast-conservation therapies are more effective. Based on the current guidelines, you should get a screening mammography annually, starting at age 40.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that if you have had breast cancer or a genetic history of breast cancer to talk to your doctor about getting screened before age 40.
Atrium’s Women’s Center uses the latest digital technology for mammography. Digital mammography, also called full-field digital mammography (FFDM), uses a digital image instead of X-ray film, similar to the way a digital camera uses a digital image instead of photographic film. After your exam, digital images of your breast are transferred from the imaging system to a specialized computer for evaluation.
The exam procedure for a digital or film mammogram image is the same, but a digital exam requires far less time. Unlike a film mammogram, where the technologist can wait three to five minutes for the films to develop in a darkroom, digital mammography allows the technologist to view images within 30 seconds to determine if images are clear or if another set of X -rays should be taken.
Screening mammograms often detect cancer early because they can show changes like lumps or dense areas in your breast. This is one reason why yearly screening mammograms are recommended for all women age 40 and over.
Yearly screenings allow your radiologist to compare previous images of your breast with current images to identify any changes. Regularly scheduled mammograms allow physicians to find breast cancer years before it can be felt by a manual breast exam. The one-year interval between exams is long enough to detect changes and short enough to quickly address anything that may be cancer.
One indicator of cancer may be the existence of calcifications, which are tiny flecks of calcium that you may or may not feel during a physical exam. The calcifications appear on the image and alert us to the possible presence of cancer, even though we may not actually see the cancer on the images.
Some calcifications are easily recognized as benign, but others are categorized as suspicious, so we need to perform a biopsy. When we find a cancer this way, we have generally found it at the very earliest stages. That’s good news, because early treatment means better outcomes.
Mammograms also allow us to detect densities and masses, or even simply a distortion of your tissue, which would need further investigation.
Our team is committed to providing fast, accurate information. For screening mammograms, your results will be mailed to you within days. Keep in mind that sometimes it takes a little longer because we’re waiting for X-rays from your previous mammogram to arrive from another hospital or physician’s office. If you have not received your results in 7 days, please contact your our Breast Care Coordinator at 513-420-5237 or toll free at 800-338-4057, extension 5237.
If a specific problem area is identified in your breast, the first step is usually a diagnostic mammogram. This problem area could have been discovered in a variety of ways, including:
- Reviewing the results of your screening mammogram
- Finding a lump or thickening in your breast tissue
- Feeling pain in your breast
- Discovering drainage from your nipple
For diagnostic mammograms, additional images will be taken. A radiologist will then compare them to your previous images, and review the results with you before you leave. If you need further analysis, our Breast Care Coordinator will provide information and help schedule your appointments.
If you have any additional questions before, during, or following your appointment, please call a Breast Care Coordinator at 513-420-5237 or toll free at 800-338-4057, extension 5237.
Learn how to prepare for your mammogram.