Who will perform my mammogram?

Your mammogram will be performed by a mammographer registered by the ARRT. The Radiologic (Mammography) Technologists at the Breast Care Center perform over 1,000 mammograms each month in an effort to save lives by early detection of breast cancer.

Who should have a mammogram?

Women ages 40 and over should have a Screening Mammogram annually (once per year) (see guidelines by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. Your doctor may recommend a slightly different routine- be sure to discuss this with your doctor.

If you have breast pain, nipple discharge, discover a lump or change in the breast, or have any other abnormalities of the breast, your doctor may request that you have a Diagnostic Mammogram. If you have no new problems that you are aware of with either breast and you are over 40 years of age, then you should have a routine screening mammogram. If you do have any problems with either breast, it is very important that you discuss that with your physician before your mammogram appointment.

Do I need an order from my physician to have a mammogram?

In order to have a mammogram, you must have an order from your physician for the test. Your physician will fax the order to SGHS and we will schedule your exam. To schedule an appointment or to change an appointment, please call 912-466-1240. If you would like more information about our mobile mammography unit, please call 912-466-5234.

What is the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?

A screening mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast that is performed for women with no symptoms and no new changes to the breast since their last mammogram. It is usually performed with two images of each breast, one from top-to-bottom (craniocaudal), and one from side-to-side (mediolateral oblique). Sometimes more images will have to be taken in an effort to obtain clear, adequate pictures and to ensure that all breast tissue is included in the picture. After your screening mammogram is performed, you can dress- there is no need to wait after the exam. Your exam will be read by a board-certified radiologist (a doctor that specializes in interpreting x-rays), a report will be typed, and you will receive a letter in the mail with your results. Your doctor will also receive a copy of your report. Occasionally, the radiologist will request that you return for more pictures to clarify any questions they may have.

This can be for a number of reasons including motion, the need for more compression, or clarification of a finding or change in the breast.

A diagnostic mammogram is performed to determine the cause of a problem. Often this is for breast pain, nipple discharge, to clarify a finding in a screening mammogram, or a lump or change felt in the breast by either your doctor or during your breast self exam. The number of pictures of each breast will vary for a diagnostic mammogram depending on your symptoms. After a diagnostic mammogram, you will wait while the technologist shows your films to the radiologist. The radiologist may request more images or a breast ultrasound, or may confirm that no more pictures are needed. You will learn the results of these tests before you leave our facility.* Your doctor will receive a copy of the report.

*Results are preliminary. Specific hours are reserved for diagnostic mammograms.

What can I expect during my mammogram?

A mammogram uses a low dose x-ray beam to produce an image of the breast. At the Breast Care Center, we use digital mammography, providing a faster experience. There is no film involved so images show up on the computer screen immediately. You will face the x-ray machine and the technologist will position your breast on the machine.

The technologist will then lower a plastic plate onto the top of the breast until the breast is adequately compressed. Everyone tolerates the exam differently; while compression can be uncomfortable, compression is a very important part of getting a clear image for the radiologist to read. You should always communicate with your technologist to let them know how you're feeling or if you are unable to tolerate the compression. The entire exam usually lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes with only a few seconds of compression for each breast. It is very important that you do not wear deodorant or powder on the day of your exam. If you forget, your technologist will provide you with wipes to clean the deodorant or powder off of your skin.

Why is compression so important?

Breast compression is necessary in order to:

  • Even out the breast so that all of the tissue can be visualized
  • Spread out the breast tissue so that small abnormalities won't be covered up by normal tissue
  • Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged
  • Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the image caused by motion
  • Reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of the picture

I have breast implants. Can I still get a mammogram?

Yes, you can still safely have a mammogram with breast implants. The technologist will perform around eight pictures instead of four. Four pictures will be taken with the breast implant included in the picture, using only a light compression. The second set of pictures will be taken without the implant in the picture. The technologists are trained to safely perform mammograms on individuals with breast implants.

How to prepare for your mammogram:

Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for mammography is one week following your period. Always inform your doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant. Some people choose to take an ibuprofen before the test. While some find mammograms to be very uncomfortable, a mammogram will not damage your tissues. Mammograms can cause some redness or bruising, especially if you tend to bruise easily or take blood thinners.

Do mammograms show all cancers?

While digital mammography is very effective in detecting cancer, there is no method for detecting 100% of cancers. That is why it is so important to follow up with your physician regarding the results of your mammogram, and for other breast health issues. In some cases, your doctor may request that you have other types of studies performed.

How do I get results for my screening mammogram?

You will receive your results in the mail and a report will be sent to your doctor. During registration, be sure that we have your correct mailing address. The letter that you receive will describe your results to you. There are several parts of the letter that are required by state and federal laws.

How do I get results for my diagnostic mammogram?

You will receive results for your diagnostic mammogram immediately following your test. In some cases, your doctor may choose to give the results to you.

I received my letter in the mail, what does it mean?

Normal follow-up

Your exam was normal or benign (not cancer). It is recommended that you return to your routine annual mammogram schedule. However, if at any time you develop any changes in either breast, please check with your doctor.

Additional Images required (call-back)

If you need additional images after your initial screening mammogram, you will be alerted by the Breast Care Center or your physician's office to return for more imaging. You will also receive a letter from us describing the results of that test. The need for additional images does not necessarily mean that there is a serious problem, but it should not be ignored.

Further testing needed

After a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound, we'll let you know if additional testing is required.

Reminder Letter

We'll let you know when it's time to schedule your next annual screening mammogram. If you've already made your appointment then you can disregard this letter and we will see you then! Otherwise, first obtain an order from your doctor then schedule your mammogram.

Short-interval Follow-up

This letter describes an area in your breast that is probably benign but should be followed up within three to six months, just to be sure. A short-interval follow-up does not necessarily mean that there is a serious problem, but it should not be ignored.

For more information about breast cancer, breast care, and national guidelines go to:

American Cancer Society

National Institute of Health

Susan G. Komen