Mammography is a specific type of low-dose, noninvasive X-ray used to examine breast tissue, commonly searching for breast tissue irregularities. All Bon Secours facilities offer digital mammograms which allow the radiologist to focus on areas of concern by enhancing readability and improving the interpretation of the images. Medical experts agree that successful treatment of breast cancer is often linked to early detection. The American Cancer Society recommends a screening mammogram every year for women beginning at the age of 40. Women who have had breast cancer or those with a family history of breast cancer should talk with their physician regarding individualized recommendations for age and screening frequency.
A typical mammogram consists of two views of each breast. In all four views, the breasts are compressed firmly between plates. The breast compression and positioning that occurs during imaging is necessary in order to acquire the best possible visualization of breast tissue. Mammograms make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt. Mammograms can also find microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium in the breast) that sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer. Mammography can be used either for screening or diagnostic purposes.
- Screening mammography is used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs, symptoms or observable breast abnormalities. The goal is to detect cancer before any clinical signs are noticeable. They require two views of each breast.
- Diagnostic mammography is used to investigate suspicious breast changes, such as a 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, or follow up to breast cancer diagnosis. Additional images can be made from other angles or focus on areas of concern at higher magnification. A diagnostic mammogram takes longer than a screening mammogram because it involves obtaining additional views.
Preparing for a Mammogram
If your most recent mammogram was not at a Bon Secours facility, you will need to obtain your prior mammogram images and bring them with you to your mammogram appointment. Your prior mammogram images will assist the radiologist in providing prompt and accurate results. It is important to notify the scheduler at the time of scheduling your appointment, if you have breast implants.
On the day of your test, please do not wear deodorant, powder, lotion or jewelry around your neck. Wear a two-piece outfit, as you will be asked to undress completely from the waist up. The actual mammogram exam typically takes about 10 minutes. A radiologist will study your mammogram images and report the results to your physician.