What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram procedure 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 mammogram imaging 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 a Mammogram 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 Procedure

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.

How to Prepare for a Mammogram

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 to Expect After a Mammogram Procedure

Once your mammogram is complete, you can go back to your normal daily routine without any designated recovery time needed. The majority of women who get mammograms don’t feel any persistent pain or soreness once the exam is over, and they can simply go on with their day. However, a few women do report experiencing slight pain after their mammogram procedure. In most cases, this soreness is no worse than the pain experienced during the mammography service and will fade within a few hours.

It’s impossible to predict the level of sensitivity or soreness you may feel after your mammogram. Some factors can influence the level of pain you experience, if any, such as:

  • The shape of your breasts
  • The positioning of your breasts during the exam
  • Your personal tolerance for pain

If you do experience post-mammogram pain, try wearing a padded sports bra for the rest of the day rather than a bra with a metal underwire. Some women may have small bruises that appear, especially individuals taking blood thinners. However, if you do notice visible bruises on your breasts or continue to feel sore 24 hours after your mammogram procedure, contact your doctor to let them know.

After your routine mammogram, many women get a letter within 30 days, letting them know that the results of their procedure were normal. However, some women are called back to take new pictures or to receive additional testing. While this can be a scary experience, it’s fairly common. Getting called back does not mean you have breast cancer, but simply that your doctor sees something atypical about your imaging.

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 Mammogram Imaging Center Near You

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