Mammograms can also be used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom has been found. This type of mammogram is called a diagnostic mammogram.
Diagnostic mammography takes longer than screening mammography because the images will be shown to the radiologist for interpretation during your appointment. This allows for additional images to be taken if necessary.
Why is a Diagnostic Mammogram Needed?
Diagnostic mammography may be done after an abnormal screening mammogram in order to evaluate the area of concern on the screening exam. For example, magnification views are performed for further evaluation of micro-calcifications seen during a screening mammogram. Additionally, symptomatic patients such as those who have felt a lump or have spontaneous nipple discharge can be examined by the radiologist during their appointment.
Before your Diagnostic Mammogram
A diagnostic mammogram uses the same equipment as a screening mammogram. It differs from a screening mammogram in that additional views of the breast are taken, so it takes slightly longer.
If you are still having menstrual periods, you may schedule a diagnostic mammogram any time of the month. However, if your breasts are usually tender during your period, you may want to have your mammogram or procedure performed within two weeks after your menstrual period ends.
In addition please remember:
- Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. The residue left on your skin by these substances may interfere with interpretation of the mammogram.
- If possible, obtain prior mammograms and make them available to the radiologist at the time of the current exam.
- For your safety, please notify our scheduling department and technologists if you believe you may be pregnant or if you have breast implants.
During Your Diagnostic Mammogram
Our technologists are dedicated to breast imaging and take special care to make the experience as comfortable as possible. You will need to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the X-ray picture. You will need to remove your clothes above the waist, and you will be given a robe for the test.
One at a time, your breasts will be positioned on a flat plate that will acquire the image while a paddle compresses your breast tissue. Firm compression is needed to spread out the tissue and obtain a high-quality image. You will be instructed to hold your breath during the exam for just a few seconds of compression. You may be asked to lift your arm or use your hand to hold your other breast out of the way. Several pictures are taken of each breast, one from the top and one from the side.
The entire exam takes approximately 30 minutes.