Key Points about Mammograms

  • A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray picture of the breast used by physicians for diagnosis and screening.
  • During a mammogram, the breast is compressed between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue.
  • Mammograms are used to capture the early identification of breast cancer through detection of masses, micro calcifications, and any abnormalities in the breast.

About mammograms

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that helps determine the presence of breast cancer early. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women; however, early stage breast cancers have a five-year survival rate of 98 percent.

3-D mammography

3-D mammography allows radiologists to examine breast tissue one layer at a time to inspect for any abnormalities in the tissue. During a 3-D mammogram, multiple images of the breast are acquired at different angles. These images can be viewed as a detailed 3-D reconstruction of the breast.

When combined with digital mammography, 3-D mammography has a 40 percent higher detection rate of invasive cancer than digital mammography alone, helping doctors diagnose cancer at an earlier stage. 

3-D digital mammography is available at Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center and Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View. You will need to check with your insurance company regarding coverage.

Digital mammography

Digital mammography allows images to be electronically enhanced on a computer. Your doctor can zoom in, magnify and optimize different parts of the breast tissue using just four standard pictures. The digital image can also be easily stored for future reference and transferred throughout the care network.

Preparing for a mammogram

Women who have had breast cancer or those with a family history of breast cancer should talk with their physician regarding individualized recommendations for age and screening frequency. 

If your most recent mammogram was not at a Bon Secours facility, you will need to obtain your prior mammogram images and bring them with you to your mammogram appointment. Your prior mammogram images will assist the radiologist in providing prompt and accurate results. It is important to notify the scheduler at the time of scheduling your appointment, if you have breast implants. 

On the day of your test, please do not wear deodorant, powder, lotion or jewelry around your neck. Wear a two-piece outfit, as you will be asked to undress completely from the waist up.

Expectations during a mammogram

A typical mammogram consists of two views of each breast. In all four views, the breasts are compressed firmly between plates. The breast compression and positioning that occurs during imaging is necessary in order to acquire the best possible visualization of breast tissue.

You will feel pressure on your breast as it is squeezed by the compression paddle and, in some cases, discomfort.

Length of mammogram exam

The exam should take approximately 15 minutes.