Radiology and Imaging
Digital Mammography Learn about local breast care
A mammogram is an X-ray image of your breasts used to screen for breast cancer. Mammograms play a key role in early breast cancer detection and help decrease breast cancer deaths.
A mammogram can be used either for screening or for diagnostic purposes. How often you should have a mammogram depends on your age and your risk of breast cancer. Review the mammogram guidelines or talk to your primary care provider for more information.
Why It's Done
- Screening mammography. Screening mammography is used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms or new breast abnormalities. The goal is to detect cancer before clinical signs are noticeable.
- Diagnostic mammography. Diagnostic mammography is used to investigate suspicious breast changes, such as a new breast lump, breast pain, an unusual skin appearance, nipple thickening or nipple discharge. It's also used to evaluate abnormal findings on a screening mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram includes additional mammogram images.
- 3-D mammography. A new breast-imaging test called 3-D mammography (breast tomosynthesis) may provide an improved way of seeing through dense breast tissue. A 3-D mammogram combines multiple low-dose mammogram images to create a 3-D image of the breast.
What You Can Expect
During the test
After you check in at the Women's Imaging Center, one of our team members will escort you to the mammography waiting room, which includes a private changing station and heated, plush robes.You'll be asked to remove neck jewelry and clothing from the waist up. To make this easier, wear a two-piece outfit that day.
For the procedure itself, you stand in front of an X-ray machine specially designed for mammography. The technologist places one of your breasts on a platform and raises or lowers the platform to match your height. The technologist helps you position your head, arms and torso to allow an unobstructed view of your breast.
Your breast is gradually pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. Pressure is applied for a few seconds to spread out the breast tissue. The pressure isn't harmful, but you may find it uncomfortable or even painful. If you have too much discomfort, tell the technologist.
Your breast must be compressed to even out its thickness and permit the X-rays to penetrate the breast tissue. The pressure also holds your breast still to decrease blurring from movement and minimizes the dose of radiation needed. During the brief X-ray exposure, you'll be asked to stand still and hold your breath.
After the test
After images are made of both your breasts, you may be asked to wait while the technologist checks the quality of the images. If the views are inadequate for technical reasons, you may have to repeat part of the test. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. Afterward, you may dress and resume normal activity.
In the United States, federal law requires mammogram facilities to send your results within 30 days, but you can usually expect to receive your results sooner. Ask the technologist what you can expect.
In addition, many states have passed legislation requiring mammogram facilities to inform you about the density of your breast tissue on the mammogram.
Mammography produces mammograms — black-and-white images of your breast tissue. Mammograms are digital images that appear on a computer screen. A radiologist interprets the images and sends a written report of the findings to your primary care provider.
The radiologist looks for evidence of cancer or noncancerous (benign) conditions that may require further testing, follow-up or treatment.