Screening mammography is the process of using X-ray images to examine the breasts. It is the single most effective tool for detecting breast cancer and other diseases.
Screening mammograms are also used as a preventive measure for women who show no symptoms of breast disease. They usually involve two to three views of each breast.
Why Are Mammograms Important?
Mammograms can show changes in the breast tissue before a patient or physician can feel them. Mammograms can detect cancer in its earliest stages when it is most treatable.
At every Northside Hospital imaging location, we use the latest digital technology, including 3D mammography or breast tomosynthesis, to provide our highly-trained radiologists with the most detailed images available. This allows for faster and more accurate results and diagnoses.Northside Hospital also utilizes computer-aided detection (CAD) technology for mammography exams. This best-in-class technology highlights areas on the mammogram that may be questionable or suspicious. By providing these highlights, CAD acts as a second pair of eyes for the radiologist.
What Can I Expect During My Mammogram?
Even though you will be given a wrap to wear during your mammogram, make sure you wear two-piece clothing, as you will need to undress from the waist up.
A skilled technologist will place your breast on a platform that will be adjusted to your height. Your face, arms and body will be placed in a position that will not obstruct the view of your breast.
A clear plastic plate will be lowered slowly on each breast, so there is enough compression to spread out the tissue for better visualization. Compression is only applied for a few seconds and is not harmful to the breast. A screening mammogram usually involves two to three views of each breast.
Are Mammograms Painful?
While breast compression can cause some discomfort, it helps doctors obtain better results by:
Who Should Have a Mammogram?
The American Cancer Society recommends all women between the ages of 35 and 40 have a baseline screening mammogram. Beginning at age 40, women should have a screening mammogram every year. In addition, women age 40 and older with certain risk factors should discuss an appropriate screening program with their physicians.
Some of the known risk factors include:
Before scheduling a mammogram, we recommend you discuss any problems with your doctor. Inform him or her of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer or symptoms of breast cancer.
You should not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during that time. Always inform your health care providers if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
If you have had a mammogram at another facility, please obtain your previous mammograms and bring them to your appointment. Comparing previous images with current images is the best way to detect changes in the breast tissue. Learn more about mammography procedure preparation with our prep manual.
What Is Seen on a Mammogram?
When interpreting your screening and diagnostic mammogram, the radiologist evaluates the skin, nipple, breast tissue and underarm. The radiologist compares the right and left breasts for symmetry and to previous mammograms for changes. If a new finding is identified and or a finding has changed from the previous mammogram, then additional mammogram images may be taken or a breast ultrasound may be performed. The following is a list of findings that may be identified on your mammogram.
If My Mammogram Shows an Abnormality, What Do I Do Next?
The majority of abnormalities detected by screening mammograms are benign. You will be asked to come back to do a diagnostic mammogram, where additional images will be taken. If a finding is identified on a mammogram and or breast ultrasound and thought to be suspicious, the radiologist will discuss these findings with you and recommend a biopsy.
The biopsy options include image-guided, vacuum-assisted or surgical excisional following image-guided needle localization. The type of biopsy recommended depends on the suspicious finding identified on the mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist will make a recommendation based on the imaging findings.
To schedule an appointment at one of the Northside Hospital Gwinnett or Duluth locations, call 678-312-3444.
To schedule an appointment at a Northside Hospital Atlanta, Forsyth or Cherokee location, call 404-851-6577.