More about Mammograms

What Is A Mammogram?

A mammogram is a screening procedure for the detection of diseases of the breast. The procedure requires an x-ray to be taken of the breast which produces an image of the breast tissue. A very small amount of radiation is used. Its purpose is to help in the detection of breast changes or abnormalities. Done regularly mammograms may help identify potential problems early.

How Is A Mammogram Done?

You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up including your bra. You will be given a gown that opens in the front. (Do not wear any deodorant or powder). The technician will position one breast at a time keeping the other covered to provide you with privacy. The breast will be placed between two flat plates and the x-ray will be taken. Two or more views will be done of each breast. The technician will review the films and let you know if other views will be needed. The mammogram report will usually take a few days to be read. Your health care provider will notify you either by phone or mail of the results.

What If The Mammogram Is Abnormal?

If your mammogram returns abnormal it doesn't always mean there is a problem. The picture of the breast may not have been clear or a larger magnified image of an area of the breast may be needed. Your health care provider may recommend some of the following procedures or tests:

  • Ultrasound - Uses sound waves to tell if a breast mass is solid or filled with fluid.
  • Needle Biopsy - Cells or fluid can be removed from an area of suspicion within the breast with a small needle. The specimen is sent to the laboratory for analysis.
  • Biopsy - A minor surgical procedure where a lump or suspicious area of tissue is removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis.
  • Magnification View - A x-ray similar to a mammogram takes a specific area of the breast and produces a larger image.

Your health care provider will give you complete information on any procedure he/she may recommend.

How Often Should I Have A Mammogram?
The American Cancer society recommends a mammogram to be done:

  • Screening mammograms between the ages of 35 - 40 years of age.
  • Annually or every other year between the ages of 40 - 49, depending on the advice of your health care provider.
  • Annually for women over the age of 50.
  • If you have a family history of breast cancer, screening may be recommended at age 30, then annual breast exams and mammograms. Your health care provider will discuss the right time for you.

Breast cancer is one of the major causes of death in women of our time. It is important for you to follow through with any recommendations that your health care provider has recommended. You can protect yourself against breast cancer by taking charge of your own health and knowing the facts.

  • Perform regular monthly breast self-examinations.
  • Have a yearly breast exam by your health care provider.
  • Have routine screening mammograms as recommended by your health care provider.

If you notice any changes with your breast please call your health care provider immediately.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association