A mammogram is a specialized x-ray of the breast designed to find early breast cancers. Numerous studies have shown that mammograms can save lives. The American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram every year for all women beginning at age 40. Women with a relative who had breast cancer before age 50 and women who had radiation therapy to their chest in their teens or twenties may need to start yearly screening at an earlier age.
A SCREENING mammogram is a routine check-up for a woman with no breast problems. Most women will need this type of study. It can be scheduled at any of the Northside Hospital imaging facilities or on the Screen Atlanta mobile van. Early morning, evening, and Saturday appointments are available.
A DIAGNOSTIC mammogram is needed when a woman has a lump or other breast symptom or if a doctor recommends it to follow up a specific area. This type of exam needs to be performed under the specific direction of a radiologist. Additional views or ultrasound may be needed to fully evaluate the area in question. This type of study can be scheduled at the Breast Care Center of Northside Hospital, Northside Alpharetta Women’s Imaging, Northside - Townlake, or Northside Cherokee Imaging Center at Riverstone.
To perform your mammogram, a technologist will image both breasts in different position using some compression. The compression may be uncomfortable, but should not usually be painful. It lasts for only a few seconds. Compressing the breast evens out the breast tissue, enabling the image to show very subtle abnormalities. Compression also decreases the radiation dose to the breast.
If your mammograms have been uncomfortable in the past, you may want to schedule for the week after your period, when the breasts are least sensitive. If your previous mammogram was performed at another facility, please be sure to bring the films (originals, not copies and not just a report) with you or have it sent to us for comparison.* On the day of your exam, be sure to wash your breasts and underarms. Do not use deodorant, powder, or perfume on these areas as they may have an appearance similar to calcium in the breast. (Deodorant is available at all of the imaging centers for use before you leave.) Wear a comfortable two-piece outfit. If you have breast implants, scars or moles, or a history of surgery or biopsy in your breasts, please alert the technologist prior to your exam. If you may be pregnant or are breastfeeding, please call to speak with the staff at the imaging center before scheduling your exam.
A report of your mammography results should arrive in your doctor’s office within seven working days (fewer if your doctor is a Northside physician). You will also receive a letter in lay terms within seven to ten working days explaining your recommendations.* If you have not received a letter within ten working days, please call the imaging facility to inquire.
Approximately ten to fifteen percent of patients who have screening mammograms will be asked to return for additional views or ultrasound. If you are one of these patients, you will receive a telephone call and a letter from the imaging facility. This should not cause undue alarm. Most “callback” cases do not turn out to be cancer, but we always want to be careful and fully evaluate any areas where there may be a question.
All of the Northside Radiology Associates physicians who read mammograms meet or exceed federal standards for experience and continuing education. All Northside Hospital mammography facilities are accredited by the American College of Radiology and the FDA.
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