Early detection is the best defense against breast cancer, which is why nearly 40 million screening mammograms are performed each year in the United States. Mammograms are often able to detect breast abnormalities before signs or symptoms of diseases or cancer occur. Whether it’s time for your first mammogram or your tenth, you might have questions or concerns about the procedure. Learn more about mammograms here, and then make your mammogram appointment today.
What are Mammograms?
A mammogram is a non-invasive breast exam that can detect breast cancer and other breast diseases when they are easiest to treat. During a mammogram, a technician will use a special machine to take X-rays of your breasts. The machine compresses the breast between two plates to provide a clearer picture of the breast tissue. A radiologist then reviews the images taken during your mammogram to identify any areas of abnormality.
Physicians consider a mammogram a “screening exam” because the test can identify masses or other abnormalities in the breasts, but it can’t determine if those abnormalities are cancer. Your doctor will use the results of your mammogram to determine if any additional testing is required.
What are the Different Types of Mammograms?
SSM Health offers three types of mammography. Please contact the SSM Health facility where you are getting your mammogram to see what types are offered.
Digital mammography replaces traditional X-ray film with a digital chip to record images of the breast. This process, also known as full-field digital mammography, makes it possible for the images of the breast to be viewed on a computer monitor or printed on a special film similar to traditional mammograms.
The advantages of digital mammograms include faster image acquisition times, fewer total exposures and less patient discomfort. Breast health screenings that use digital mammograms have been proven to detect breast cancers better than conventional mammograms in three groups of women: those younger than 50, those with dense breasts and those who are pre-menopausal.
Our new 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography is the latest exam to be added to our advanced array of technology. This revolutionary process allows your physician to better distinguish masses or tissues that might be cancerous. In traditional mammography, the details of the breast are viewed in one flat image. 3D mammography allows the breast to be viewed in a series of layers, allowing the radiologist to more accurately interpret the images.
The use of 3D mammography has proven to significantly reduce false positive callbacks and to be more accurate in detecting breast cancers early.
When Should I Have a Mammogram?
Recommended screening guidelines are dependent on your health history and risk for developing breast cancer. Speak with your doctor to determine when you should start getting screening mammograms. Women of average breast cancer risk should start getting mammograms between ages 40 to 45 depending on their breast cancer risk. Regular screenings, which typically occur once a year, should continue as long as your doctor recommends.
In addition, your doctor may recommend a mammogram for the following reasons:
- Diagnosis of breast irregularities you or your doctor finds during a breast exam
- Follow-up to a previous abnormal mammogram
- Tracking the progress of lumps or irregularities
SSM Health is here to provide you the very best care in breast health. Make an appointment today to talk to your doctor if you still have questions or concerns about your mammogram.
Screening Mammogram vs Diagnostic Mammogram?
A screening mammogram is your annual mammogram that is done every year. Sometimes, the radiologist may ask you to come back for follow-up images, called a diagnostic mammogram, to rule out an unclear area in the breast, or if there is a breast concern that needs to be evaluated.