A mammogram is an X-ray exam of the breast that is used to detect and evaluate breast changes. There are two types of mammograms: screening and diagnostic. A screening mammogram is an annual preventative screening for women age 40 and older who have not experienced any abnormal breast symptoms. A diagnostic mammogram is typically for women who display symptoms that need to be investigated, such as a breast lump or nipple discharge. They may also be performed as a follow-up to a screening mammogram to further investigate a particular area of the breast.
The American College of Radiology recommends that women age 40 and older should get a yearly screening mammogram for as long as a woman is in good health. You may need to have a diagnostic mammogram before age 40 if you begin to develop symptoms, such as a lump, discharge or other abnormalities; or you have a family history of breast issues.
How is a Mammogram performed?
You will fill out a breast history form to be discussed with the technologist prior to the exam.
A technologist will escort you to the dressing room and ask you to undress from the waist up and put on a gown.
Once in the exam room, your technologist will position your breast in the mammogram machine.
Your breast will be briefly compressed between two plates attached to the mammogram machine. The bottom plate holds the digital detector that records the image.
The technologist compresses your breast to keep it from moving and to make the layer of breast tissue thinner. A thinner layer of breast tissue allows the image to be sharper.
The exam may be uncomfortable for a few seconds, but should not be painful. A simple repositioning may help, so make sure to notify your technologist of any discomfort.