Screening & Diagnostic Mammograms

Yearly screening mammograms increase the chance for early detection of cancer that has not yet caused any physical symptoms. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women age 40 or older have a yearly screening mammogram, in addition to their monthly self-exam and annual physician breast exam.

If a breast lump has been found or there are changes in the breast (like nipple discharge, persistent rash or skin dimpling) a different kind of mammogram, called a diagnostic mammogram, is needed. Although this type of mammogram is performed very similarly to a screening mammogram, this test actually focuses on the specific part of the breast that is showing symptoms.

Although most women can schedule a screening mammogram without consulting their doctor, a diagnostic mammogram must be ordered by a physician. If you feel you have unusual breast symptoms, contact your doctor so that he can fax us an order for a diagnostic mammogram.

How to Prepare for Your Mammogram

Schedule the test for a time when your breasts are less likely to be tender. This is often the week after your menstrual period. Breasts are most likely to be tender the week before and during your menstrual period.

A Few Weeks Before

If you are new patient to the SIH Cancer Institute, gather any prior mammograms and bring them with you to your appointment so that the radiologist can compare them with your new digital images. It’s important to bring the original mammogram films, not copies, and accompanying reports. You can also authorize a release to The Breast Center and we will request your films are sent to us for comparison from your previous facility.

On the day of Your Test
  • Do not use any deodorant, powder, ointment or preparations of any kind on the underarm area or on your breasts. Metallic particles in powders and deodorants could be visible on your mammogram and cause confusion.
  • During the test, you will be asked to undress to the waist. Two-piece outfits make this a little easier.
  • Taking an over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) about an hour before your mammogram might ease the discomfort of the test.
Time for Your Mammogram

You will be given a gown and asked to remove jewelry and clothing from the waist up. There is a locker for your personal items, and you will hold the key during your exam. After changing, you will go across the hall to the mammography suite, where the mammography tech will review your personal history with you.

During the procedure, the technician places one of your breasts on a platform and helps you position your head, arms and torso to allow an unobstructed view of your breast.
Your breast is gently pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. Pressure is applied for a few seconds to spread out the breast tissue. The pressure isn’t harmful, but you may find it uncomfortable or even painful. If you have too much discomfort, inform the technician.

Your breast must be compressed to even out its thickness and permit the x-rays to penetrate the breast tissue. The pressure also holds your breast still to decrease blurring from movement and minimizes the dose of radiation needed. During the brief x-ray exposure, you’ll be asked to stand still and hold your breath.

The entire test takes about 10 minutes. Afterward, you may dress and resume normal activity. We provide deodorant and wipes for your convenience.