A mammogram is an x-ray examination that uses extremely low doses of radiation to obtain accurate images of the breasts. It is the best way of detecting small cancers even before they can be felt. The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. While the exact cause of breast cancer has not been found, we do know that it is treatable and can often be cured when detected early. ARA recommends that women begin screening mammograms at age 40 and continue yearly thereafter. Your physician may recommend a screening mammogram before age forty, based on your risk factors for breast cancer. Because a small percentage of breast cancers cannot be seen on a mammogram, your best defense against breast cancer is an annual mammogram, monthly breast self-examination, and an annual breast exam by your physician.
Breast Tomosynthesis (3D Mammography)
The latest innovation in breast imaging is breast tomosynthesis or 3D mammography, which takes multiple images of the breast for a more detailed exam. As of 2017, ARA offers 3D mammography at 12 of its 17 clinics, making this exam widely available to Central Texans.
When will I know the results?
One of our board-certified radiologists will interpret your mammogram and a written report will be sent to your physician usually within 3-7 working days depending on the type of mammogram you have. Please be aware that delays in sending reports can sometimes occur when previous mammograms are needed for comparison. You will receive a letter within 30 days. If you have any questions about the results, please contact your physician.
Screening versus Diagnostic Mammograms
The exam will vary whether you are having a screening mammogram or a diagnostic mammogram:
This exam is for women who do not have breast symptoms. When you arrive for a screening exam you will be asked to change into a gown. A registered female technologist will perform your examination. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view and a side view. Each breast will be compressed for a few seconds while the x-rays are taken. This may be slightly uncomfortable, but it is necessary for an accurate examination. As many women experience increased breast tenderness prior to menstruation, you may wish to avoid scheduling your mammogram during that time to minimize discomfort. When the exam is completed, you will be asked to wait until the technologist examines the images. The procedure takes approximately 10 minutes and you will be in the office for about 30 minutes. Approximately 10% of women will get called back after a screening mammogram for additional mammogram views or ultrasound to get a better view of a particular area.
This exam is for women with signs or symptoms of breast disease such as a worrisome breast lump, skin changes or nipple discharge, or for women with breast implants or a history of breast cancer. It is also used to further evaluate problematic areas detected on screening mammography. The diagnostic mammogram will take place in the same manner as the screening exam but may include additional views or special techniques to magnify a suspicious area or to eliminate shadows produced by overlapping layers of normal breast tissue. Your doctor or the radiologist may also ask you to have a sonogram (ultrasound study). A diagnostic mammogram may take up to 1 hour depending on how many views are needed.