Mammography is currently the most important tool in the diagnosis of breast cancer.
A mammogram uses a low dose x-ray to take a digital image of the breast while the breast is compressed. Mammography finds abnormalities that cannot be seen or felt by you or your doctor. Most of these abnormalities are not cancer, but they must be further investigated by a radiologist.
While mammograms don’t prevent breast cancer, they help a doctor find it much earlier. A mammogram can identify a lump up to two years before it will become large enough for you to feel it. By finding breast cancer early, a woman’s chances of survival are higher and she may have more treatment options available to her. When breast cancer is found early, the five year survival rate is greater than 95%. Additionally, finding breast cancer early enables more women to select treatment options that allow them to keep their breasts.
Screening Mammogram Recommendations
Like many medical exams, mammograms are not 100% accurate. However, they are the best imaging method widely available today for screening the population and finding breast cancer early. The American Cancer Society, The American Medical Association, and the American College of Radiology recommend that women age 40 and over have screening mammograms every year. Women at high risk for breast cancer should consider starting yearly mammograms at a younger age. It’s important to follow the recommended screening guidelines for breast cancer to increase the likelihood that breast cancer is found early.
Women with any of the following circumstances are considered high risk:
- Mother or sister with pre-menopausal breast cancer
- Personal history of breast cancer
- You carry the breast cancer gene
- Previous biopsy with high risk lesion
- Previous chest radiation for lymphoma
Mammograms should be part of a comprehensive routine for checking for breast cancer that also includes monthly breast self examinations and annual clinical breast examinations.
A diagnostic mammogram is done to inspect an abnormality that has been found in the breast, either in the screening mammogram or during a breast self exam (BSE) by the woman or during the clinical breast exam (CBE) by the clinician. This type of mammogram may help a radiologist exclude a problem, diagnose an abnormality, or determine subsequent exams. Someone with a personal history of breast cancer may have diagnostic mammograms for the first few years following lumpectomy or breast conservation surgery.
With a diagnostic mammogram, more images are taken than with a screening mammogram. This is done to determine the exact size and location of the abnormality and to better examine the surrounding tissue.
Risks Involved in Mammography
The risk of x-ray exposure exists; however, it is well below the level that generally causes adverse affects.
Since mammograms, like many medical exams, are not 100% accurate, there is the risk that the breast cancer may not be seen on the mammogram.
Scheduling, Insurance and Preparation
To schedule a mammogram, call 720-493-3700. For a diagnostic mammogram, you must obtain an order from your referring physician first.
Screening mammograms are usually covered by insurance on an annual basis for women age 40 and over. Diagnostic mammograms are usually covered by insurance when ordered by a physician. Check with your insurance company to be sure. Please bring your insurance card with you to your exam.
Conditions to Let Us Know About
In advance of your exam, let your scheduler or technologist know if any of the following circumstances apply to you:
- Currently pregnant or breastfeeding
- New lumps or changes in your breasts (i.e. nipple discharge)
Following are the general preparation guidelines for a mammogram. Please contact us at 720-493-3700 if you have any questions.
- Do not use deodorant, powder, perfumes, or creams under your arms or on or around your breasts (or be prepared to wash them off before the exam).
- Wear an outfit with a separate top and bottom.
- Bring any mammography images and reports you have that were not done at an Invision Sally Jobe facility.
- If your breasts are extremely sensitive, schedule your mammogram at a time when your breasts are least sensitive.
- Arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment time.
What to Expect
During the Exam
Here is generally what will happen during a mammogram:
- You will disrobe from the waist up and put on a robe. You may use a secure locker for your personal items during your exam.
- The technologist will position your breast on a platform and then compress the breast with a paddle. This will even out the breast so that all of the breast tissue can be better visualized.
- Two views of each breast will be taken for a screening mammogram. Several views will be taken for a diagnostic mammogram. The technologist will reposition you between views.
- You will change back into your clothes.
A screening mammogram usually takes about ten minutes.
A diagnostic mammogram can take up to thirty minutes. A radiologist specialized in breast imaging will oversee your evaluation. At the time of your visit, the radiologist will ensure the completeness of the evaluation and, if appropriate, explain any further recommendations.
After the Exam
You can return to your normal activities immediately after your mammogram.
A board-certified radiologist experienced in the interpretation of mammograms will analyze the data and results from your exam. If you had a previous mammogram at Invision Sally Jobe, the radiologist may compare your new images with your previous images to check for changes in your breasts. The results will be reported to your physician and sent to you in a letter.
During the exam, our technologists will be happy to answer questions about the exam itself; however, they will not immediately provide you with the results of your exam.
National Mammography Database Participant
The National Radiology Data Registry (NRDR) is a data warehouse for several medical registries, including the National Mammography Database (NMD). The primary purpose of NRDR is to aid facilities with their quality improvement programs and efforts to improve patient care by comparing facility data to that of their region and the nation. A practice or facility may choose to participate in any or all registries as appropriate for their practice.
The National Mammography Database (NMD) leverages data that radiology practices are already collecting under federal mandate by providing them with comparative information for national and regional benchmarking. Participants receive semi-annual feedback reports that include important benchmark data such as true positive rates, positive predictive value rates and recall rates.
Invision Sally Jobe believes in leveraging available tools and data that may help improve the quality of our patient care. We proudly participate in the National Mammography Database.