A mammogram is a specific type of breast exam that aids in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women. This quick medical exam uses a noninvasive x-ray on each breast that produces pictures that your doctor can use to identify and treat any abnormal areas.
Annual mammograms can detect cancer early—when it is most treatable. In fact, mammograms show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Mammograms can also prevent the need for extensive treatment for advanced cancers and improve chances of breast conservation. Mammography is the best tool available today to screen for breast cancer.
Who should be screened?
At Marshall Health, we follow the current measures for breast cancer screening from the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) published by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which recommends that women receive annual mammograms starting at age 50 even if you have no symptoms or family history.
What to expect
During your mammogram, a qualified technician will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast is placed on a special platform and compressed. The technician gradually compresses your breast with the machine, and while you hold still, an image is taken that produces a top-to-bottom view of the breast. You will be asked to change positions so the side view of the breast can also be produced. While you may be in the clinic up to an hour, the procedure itself only lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.
Screening vs. Diagnostic Mammograms
- Look for signs of cancer
- Annual x-ray exams of the breasts for women who have no breast symptoms or changes in their breast exams
- A follow-up mammogram when suspicious results are found on a screening mammogram or abnormal symptoms, such as a lump, breast pain or nipple discharge occur
- For women who need short interval, follow-up exams as a result of a prior diagnostic exam
- Women who were previously treated for breast cancer may get a diagnostic exam
What happens if something is detected on my screening exam?
Lumps, abnormalities or questionable findings in the breast are often detected by screening tests. However, it is not always possible to tell from these imaging tests whether a finding is benign or cancerous. Your doctor may recommend that one or more of the following imaging tests be performed:
- Diagnostic mammogram
- Breast ultrasound
- Breast MRI