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What is Mammography?

Mammography uses X-rays to produce images of breast tissue for our radiologists to analyze in order to detect breast cancer. Mammography plays a key role in early detection of breast cancer allowing patients to begin treatment earlier.

  • Screening mammogram:
    • This exam is for women who do not have breast symptoms. When you arrive for a screening exam you will be asked to change into a gown. A registered female technologist will perform your examination. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view and a side view. Each breast will be compressed for a few seconds while the images are taken. As many women experience increased breast tenderness prior to menstruation, you may wish to avoid scheduling your mammogram during that time to minimize discomfort. When the exam is completed, you will be asked to wait until the technologist examines the images. The procedure takes approximately 10 minutes and you will be in the office for about 30 minutes. Please do not be concerned if you receive a call back for additional imaging. Approximately 10% of women will get called back after a screening mammogram for additional mammogram views or ultrasound to get a better view of a particular area.
  • Diagnostic mammogram:
    • The diagnostic mammogram will take place in the same manner as the screening exam but may include additional views or special techniques to magnify an area or to eliminate shadows produced by overlapping layers of normal breast tissue. Your doctor or the radiologist may also ask you to have a sonogram (ultrasound study). A diagnostic mammogram may take up to 1 hour depending on how many views are needed.
    • This exam is for women with signs or symptoms of breast disease such as a worrisome breast lump, skin changes or nipple discharge, or for women with breast implants or a history of breast cancer. It is also used to further evaluate problematic areas detected on screening mammography.

Other Breast Imaging Modalities:

  • Ultrasound
    • An imaging test that uses sound waves to create a picture of your breast. Ultrasound technology allows us to detect the slightest abnormalities in dense breasts and helps us determine whether a lump is a cyst (sac containing fluid) or a solid mass. This exam is usually used along with a mammogram.
  • Breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
    • MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body. When performed using intravenous contrast, MRI can show the difference between enhancement of normal and abnormal breast tissue. This difference is not affected by the density of the breast tissue. MRI is therefore helpful in finding a subset of cancers that can be obscured by tissue on mammogram. Research studies have shown MRI to be very effective in finding breast cancers in dense breasts.
    • Recommended for women with a high risk of developing breast cancer
  • Biopsy
    • A test in which fluid or tissue is removed from your breast to help find out if there is cancer. A breast biopsy can be performed using Mammo (stereotactic breast biopsy), US or MRI guidance.

Appointment Preparation

  • Mammogram
    • Wear a two piece outfit.
    • Schedule your exam ~10 days following the onset of your period (if applicable).
    • Shower or bathe on the day of your examination; No powders or deodorants in the breast or armpit areas on the day of your exam.
    • Avoiding caffeine for the week prior to your mammogram may make the examination less uncomfortable.
    • If you have had prior breast studies at another facility, please let our scheduler know.
  • Breast Biopsy
    • Wear a two piece outfit.
    • Shower or bathe on the day of your examination; No powders or deodorants in the breast or armpit areas on the day of your exam.
    • Take all your usual medications the day of the procedure except anticoagulants (Blood thinning medications).
    • The following medications will need to be stopped five days prior to the procedure. Please coordinate with your prescribing physician.
      • Aspirin
      • Coumadin (warfarin)
      • Lovenox
      • Plavix
      • Pradaxa
      • Vitamin D
      • Vitamin E
  • Breast Cyst Aspiration
    • Wear a two piece outfit.
    • Shower or bathe on the day of your examination; No powders or deodorants in the breast or armpit areas on the day of your exam.


  • What are the risks involved?
    • There are no risks associated with mammography other than the small amount of radiation required to create the images. Our facilities are MQSA-certified so you can be assured we are operating within federally-mandated requirements.
  • Do I need one every year?
    • We follow the recommendations of the ACR (American Cancer Society) who recommend annual mammograms for asymptomatic women age 40 and older who are at average risk for breast cancer.
  • I am over 80 years old, do I really still need a mammogram?
    • There is no defined upper age limit at which mammography may not be beneficial. Screening with mammography should be considered as long as the patient is in good health and is willing to undergo additional testing, including biopsy if an abnormality is detected.
  • How much radiation is in a screening vs. a diagnostic mammogram?
    • Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low, but repeated x-rays have the potential to cause cancer. The benefits of mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure. Nevertheless, women should talk with their health care providers about the need for each x-ray. In addition, they should always let their health care provider and the x-ray technician know if there is any possibility that they are pregnant, because radiation can harm a growing fetus. The dose from a mammogram is the same as about 7 weeks of background radiation. The dose for a diagnostic mammogram is more than a screening due to the potential need for more specialized views.
  • How long will the exam take?
    • Approximately 15 minutes for a screening mammogram and 30 minutes to 1 hour for a diagnostic.
  • Why can I NOT use deodorant?
    • Deodorant can cause artifacts on the mammogram.
  • Why is there a chance I may have to come in for another mammogram or a breast ultrasound?
    • When you have a screening mammogram, the radiologist may feel that there is an area that requires further examination and will recommend additional mammogram images or possibly an ultrasound. Please do not be concerned. This occurs in about 5-10 % of screening mammograms. Once you return for the additional imaging with GIC, you will usually receive verbal results at the time of imaging.
  • When will I know the results?
    • One of our board-certified radiologists will interpret your mammogram and a written report will be sent to your physician usually within 3-7 working days depending on the type of mammogram you have. Please be aware that delays in sending reports can sometimes occur when previous mammograms are needed for comparison. You will receive a letter within 30 days. If you have any questions about the results, please contact your physician. If the radiologist needs you to return for extra views, we will call you on the phone within 3-5 working days. A diagnostic patient will receive a preliminary result at the time of exam.
  • What is CAD?
    • Computer-aided detection or CAD is a system that has been developed that analyzes a mammogram and marks areas that the algorithms may show to be abnormal. The radiologist makes the final decision and interprets the mammogram. CAD is similar to a spell checker on a computer, it marks words that the software feel may be misspelled, however it is up to the writer to determine if the word is really wrong or if it is correct.
  • What are MammoPad Breast Cushions (Soft Touch Mammography)?
    • MammoPad breast cushions are soft foam pads that can help increase a woman's comfort during a mammogram. The cushion is placed on the surface of the image detector, providing a softer, more comfortable mammogram. Clinical studies show three out of every four women experience an average 50% increase in comfort with MammoPad breast cushions. While the breast cushion provides comfort, it does not compromise the high level of image quality needed for a routine mammogram or require increased radiation dose during a mammogram. Since MammoPad breast cushions provide a warmer, softer, and more comfortable mammogram, women are generally more relaxed during the exam. This enables the technologist to get more breast tissue in the image. The cushion's grip-like surface also holds breast tissue in place to ensure optimal breast positioning and ultimately, a better image and exam for you. Clinical studies show that the combination of a relaxed patient and the MammoPad's grip-like effect allows more of the woman's breast to be imaged, enabling a more comprehensive image with confident results. At Grossman Imaging Center, every patient receives a (Soft Touch Mammogram) at no additional charge.

    • Questions should be referred to your clinician to determine which imaging is appropriate for you.