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?

We follow the current measures of the American College of Radiology (ACR), which recommends that women receive annual mammograms starting at age 40 even if you have no symptoms or family history. The American Cancer Society, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Society of Breast Imaging and ACR agree this approach saves the most lives. 

What to expect

During your mammogram, a qualified technologist will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast is placed on a special platform and  compressed. The technologist 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

Screening Mammogram:

  • 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

Diagnostic Mammogram:

  • 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