A screening mammogram is an X-ray exam that uses extremely low doses of radiation to obtain accurate images of the breasts. These images are examined by radiologists to detect cancer. Mammography can reveal small cancers up to two years before they can be felt. The goal of a screening is to detect disease before symptoms occur, at its earliest and most treatable stage. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
A note from the Society of Breast Imaging about mammograms and the COVID-19 vaccine
Some women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine develop swollen lymph nodes under their arm on the same side as their vaccine injection. This is a normal reaction that subsides after a few weeks. However, since swollen lymph nodes are one sign of breast cancer, you may want schedule your mammogram before your vaccine or wait at least 4 weeks after your second dose. If swollen lymph nodes are seen on your mammogram, your ARA breast imager may ask you to return for more imaging. Both your mammogram and your vaccine are very important for your health. If you are already overdue for your mammogram, please don’t postpone it because of your vaccine appointment. Get more information from the Society for Breast Imaging here.
ARA recommends that women begin screening mammograms at age 40 and continue yearly thereafter. Your physician may recommend a screening mammogram before age 40, based on your risk factors for breast cancer. Your best defense against breast cancer is an annual mammogram, monthly breast self-examination, and an annual breast exam by your physician.
Screening mammography is for women who do not have breast symptoms. It is meant to detect cancer even before symptoms occur.
Diagnostic mammography is for women or men with symptoms of breast disease such as a lump, skin changes, or nipple discharge. Diagnostic mammography may also be used for women with a history of breast cancer and to evaluate problematic areas detected on a screening mammogram. If you have breast symptoms that are concerning, your provider should order a diagnostic mammogram.
ARA uses advanced 3D mammography technology for our screening mammograms. A 3D mammography unit takes multiple images of the breast and uses computer reconstruction to create 3D images of the breast. The breast is compressed between a clear plastic paddle and an imaging detector and the X-ray tube moves in an arc over the breast, capturing different angles. ARA radiologists can then scroll through all the images much like a book – one page at a time – to gain a better understanding of the structures inside your breast. Benefits of 3D mammography technology include:
- It is more effective for finding breast cancer. 3D mammography has an up to 41% higher detection rate for invasive breast cancer.
- It results in fewer callbacks. Because 3D mammography is so thorough, fewer women are called back for additional imaging exams, resulting in less expense and anxiety for the patient.
- It uses low-dose radiation, with a dosage comparable to the older 2D exam.
- It’s convenient. 13 ARA locations offer 3D mammography in Central Texas. The exam only takes 30 minutes and ARA offers extended appointment hours.
- It’s widely covered by insurance. In 2018, the Texas Legislature required all insurance companies operating in-state to cover 3D mammography. It is also covered by Medicare.
- The survival rate of early-stage breast cancer is 98%, meaning early detection is key to recovering from breast cancer. Mammography helps detect cancers up to two years before they can be felt.
- Screening with mammography has been shown to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths.
- No radiation remains in the patient’s body after an X-ray exam and X-rays typically have no side effects.
- Mammography uses a low dose of radiation, but the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk. Get more information from radiologyinfo.org. Get more information on radiation safety at ARA.
- It is possible that you will get a “false positive,” since 5 to 15 percent of screening mammograms require more testing, such as special mammogram images or ultrasound. Most of these exams show normal results. If there is an abnormal finding, you may need a biopsy for further diagnosis.
- Women must always let the mammography technologist know if they are pregnant. It is recommended that women wait until after pregnancy to have a screening mammogram. An alternate screening such as ultrasound may be recommended.
- A mammogram takes approximately 10 minutes and you will be in the office for about 30 minutes.
- When you arrive, you will be asked to change into a gown. If you are wearing a two-piece outfit you will only need to remove your top garments.
- A registered female technologist will perform your examination.
- While you stand close to the unit, each breast will be compressed for a few seconds between the imaging detector and a clear paddle while the X-rays are taken. Two views of each breast will be taken—a top view and a side view. This may be slightly uncomfortable, but it is necessary. The compression reduces the thickness of the breast resulting in a lower radiation dose, it spreads out the breast tissue to make it easier to see through the tissue, and it helps prevent movement which can make the image blurry.
- Since many women experience increased breast tenderness prior to menstruation, you may wish to avoid scheduling your mammogram during that time to minimize discomfort.
- Approximately 10% of women will get called back after a screening mammogram for additional mammogram views or ultrasound to get a different view of a particular area.
- Screening mammograms require a provider referral if you are under the age of 40. Please bring a copy to your appointment if necessary. If you are 40 or over, you can make an appointment for a screening mammogram without a referral, but you will be required to provide the name of your primary medical provider, so we can send them the exam report.
- If you have had a mammogram at an office other than ARA Diagnostic Imaging, please inform the scheduler or bring those images with you for comparison if possible. Also inform the scheduler if you have breast implants.
- Wash breasts and underarms and do not apply any deodorant, powder, or cream.
- Since you will undress from the waist up for the exam, you may wish to wear a two-piece outfit.
To schedule a screening mammogram, please use our convenient online scheduling tool. You can also call our scheduling team at (512) 453-6100 or toll free at (800) 998-8214. No provider referral is required for a screening mammogram, but you will be required to provide the name of your primary medical provider, so we can send them the results of your exam.
One of ARA’s board-certified radiologists will interpret your mammogram and a written report will be sent to your medical provider within 3 working days. Please be aware that delays in sending reports can sometimes occur when previous exams are needed for comparison. You will receive a letter within 10 business days. If you have any questions about the results, please contact your medical provider. You can also view your exam report on our online patient portal 15 days after your exam.