Women's Health Services | Mammography Q&A

Mammography: Questions & Answers


What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. The results are recorded for a radiologist to examine.

How often should I get a mammogram?

Based on the American College of Radiology:
  • Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
  • Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.
Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all women in the United States.) Talk with a doctor about your history and whether you should have other tests or start testing at an earlier age.

How is a mammogram done?

A radiologic technician, places your breast between two plates. These plates then compress the breasts to flatten them and take images of the breast tissue.

Where can I have a mammogram done?

Patients who wish to have a mammogram should schedule an appointment by calling Trinity Health’s Mammography Scheduling line at 857-2640, or in Williston at Trinity Community Clinic – Western Dakota, at 572-7711


What does Trinity Health offer in mammography?

3-D Mammography

Trinity Health is proud to offer Wide-Angle True Breast Tomosynthesis – the most up-to-date 3-dimensional breast imaging system on the market. Trinity’s Siemens 3-D system features wide-angle image acquisition that lets physicians detect breast cancer with amazing precision – even in cases of dense breast or overlapping tissue. 3-D tomosynthesis technology gives radiologists greater ability to detect and diagnose very small tumors as well as target the size, shape and location of tumors overall. That’s because the wide-angle, multiple-image picture gives a comprehensive 3-dimensional view. Radiologists can scroll through the “slices” looking for abnormalities. Advantages of a 3-D system include fewer call backs and less anxiety for patients.

2-D Digital Mammography

For women who for various reasons aren’t candidates for 3-D mammography, Trinity’s 2-dimensional digital mammography system continues to be an excellent technology. Some women may prefer the 2 to 3 second compression times for 2-dimensional mammography, compared to the 25 to 35 seconds for a 3-D mammogram. Other factors, such as cost or insurance coverage also may lead a woman to choose 2-D. Digital mammography directly converts x-rays into digital information using a detector, similar to those found in digital cameras. The mammogram appears as a digital image on a computer screen, which the radiologist can manipulate to get a better look at underlying structures.

Other Services

In addition to screening and diagnostic mammograms, Trinity Health offers ultrasound and stereotactic-guided vacuum-assisted breast biopsies for women whose mammogram reveals an area that warrants closer inspection.


What can mammograms show?

The radiologist will look at your x-rays for breast changes that do not look normal and for differences in each breast. He or she will compare your past mammograms with your most recent one to check for changes. The doctor will also look for lumps and calcifications.

  • Lump or mass, the size, shape, and edges of a lump sometimes can give doctors information about whether or not it may be cancer. On a mammogram, a growth that is benign often looks smooth and round with a clear, defined edge. Breast cancer often has a jagged outline and an irregular shape.

  • Calcification, a calcification is a deposit of the mineral calcium in the breast tissue. Calcifications appear as small white spots on a mammogram.

If calcifications are grouped together in a certain way, it may be a sign of cancer. Depending on how many calcium specks you have, how big they are, and what they look like, your doctor may suggest that you have other tests. Calcium in the diet does not create calcium deposits, or calcifications, in the breast.


What if my screening mammogram shows a problem?

If you have a screening test result that suggests cancer, your doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or to some other cause. Your doctor may ask about your personal and family medical history. You may have a physical exam. Your doctor also may order some of these tests:

  • Diagnostic Mammogram, to focus on a specific area of the breast.

  • Ultrasound, an imaging test that uses sound waves to create a picture of your breast. The pictures may show whether a lump is solid or filled with fluid. A fluid-filled sac is a cyst. Cysts are not cancer, but a solid mass may be cancer.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer. MRI makes detailed pictures of breast tissue.

  • Biopsy, a test in which fluid or tissue is removed from your breast to help find out if there is cancer. You may be refered to a surgeon or to a doctor who is an expert in breast disease for a biopsy.





 
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