What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is simply an X-ray image of your breast. Mammography uses a low dose X-ray to look for early signs of breast cancer, such as lumps that are too small to be felt either by yourself or your healthcare provider. A mammogram can also show changes in your breast tissue which could indicate early stage breast cancer.

Our radiologists use digital mammography to both locate and diagnose cancer nodules which were undetectable on older systems. This makes regular mammograms the best way to find breast cancer early on, sometimes as much as three years before it can be felt.

Common Uses for This Procedure

Mammograms are either used as a screening tool for early breast cancer detection or diagnostically for women experiencing symptoms:

  • Screening Mammography: Even if you have no signs or symptoms of the disease, screening mammograms are performed annually as a part of a regular preventative health care screening program to detect breast cancer in women as early as possible.
  • Diagnostic Mammography: If you have abnormal clinical findings, your doctor may recommend a diagnostic mammogram. Symptoms that could indicate breast disease include a lump, nipple discharge or skin dimpling.

How to Prepare for a Mammogram

Before your mammogram, be sure your doctor and radiologist are fully aware of any problems or new findings in your breasts. They will also need to know about your family and personal history of breast cancer and medications you are taking.

It’s not a good idea to schedule your mammogram the week before your menstrual cycle as your breasts may be more tender. The best time for this test is the week after your period. You will also need to inform the technician if there’s a possibility you’re pregnant.

Other preparations include:

  • Don’t wear deodorant, antiperspirant or lotion under your arms or on your breasts as this can show up as white spots on the X-ray.
  • Describe your breast symptoms, if any, to the technician performing the procedure.
  • Ensure that all prior mammograms are available to your radiologist for comparison if they were done at another location.

What to Expect During the Mammography Procedure?

A mammogram can be uncomfortable or even painful for some women. How it feels depends on the size of your breast and how much of it needs to be pressed. However, it only takes a few moments, and the discomfort is soon over.

Before the procedure, you will be asked to undress from the waist up. To ensure your comfort, this procedure is performed by a board certified female technician. During the exam, you will stand and face the mammography machine. One breast at a time will be positioned on a flat surface and gradually compressed with a paddle. This is necessary as it provides a high-quality picture and reduces the amount of radiation to the breast.

You will be asked to hold still while the image is being taken and may even be asked to hold your breath for a few moments to reduce the risk of blurring your picture.

If you feel uncomfortable at all, be sure to let your radiology technologist know.

What is 3D Mammography/Tomosynthesis?

3D breast tomosynthesis mammography is an advanced, three-dimensional breast imaging service, for the earliest detection of breast cancer.

This new type of mammography produces a 3D image of the breast, providing breast imaging radiologists with a clearer view through overlapping breast tissue. The result is a more detailed picture, making breast abnormalities easier to see, even in dense tissue.

Tomosynthesis also improves the radiologists’ ability to detect potential breast cancers by helping to pinpoint the size, shape and location of abnormalities. This helps the radiologist distinguish harmless structures from tumors, leading to fewer false positives, fewer call-backs and reduces anxiety for patients.

This new technology is FDA approved. Patients wishing to add 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography to their exam at centers where this service is available, may be asked to pay an additional fee.  We will bill your insurance for the other components of the procedure and payment will be subject to insurance plan provisions.

Find a Location Near You

Mammography is offered at many of our Envision Radiology imaging centers found in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. For more information about this procedure, contact our partners in one of the below regions: