If your doctor, or friends and family have started talking to you about scheduling a mammogram, you might be feeling a little uneasy. That's okay. It's a completely normal reaction.
A mammogram is a screening that helps to detect abnormalities in the breast – namely breast cancer. And there are natural fears that come up when we hear the word ‘cancer’. But what if we looked at mammograms a little differently – as a tool that helps us to rule out breast cancer? In fact, in most cases, that's exactly what it does.
According to the American College of Radiology, “For every 1,000 women who have a screening mammogram, five are diagnosed with breast cancer.” That's less than one percent. And if an abnormality does exist, a mammogram can detect it at an early stage, dramatically increasing the chance of a full recovery.
At Memorial Hermann, we are passionate about proactive care. Every day, women trust our experienced mammography technicians to provide the most advanced screenings in a friendly, comfortable environment. And the positive feedback we receive from patients means the world to us.
We'll talk more about what to expect at a screening, but first, let's discuss recommended guidelines, so you know when, and how often you need to schedule your mammogram.
Having a mammogram could be one of the most important health care decisions you’ll every make, and it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. You have a choice of where to go.
Unlike freestanding mammography centers, Memorial Hermann Imaging and Breast Care Centers offer a full range of breast health services in an environment focused on your peace and comfort.
Memorial Hermann Breast Care Centers are committed to easing your anxiety and increasing your comfort level. In a calm and caring environment, we provide emotional support and luxury amenities, including:
The type of mammogram you receive depends on a variety of factors, including medical and family history, age and even preference.
The three main types include:
If you show no preexisting signs of breast cancer, including a lump in the breast, nipple discharge or breast skin changes, a screening mammogram will most likely be recommended (in accordance with American Cancer Society guidelines).
A screening mammogram is a routine, non-invasive X-ray of the breast (mammary glands) which looks for potential breast problems, such as a lump or other abnormality and usually consists of two standard images of each breast.
Memorial Hermann offers the SmartCurve system for 3-D screening mammograms at some locations. This technology provides a curved compression surface for a more comfortable patient experience. Your mammography technologist will confirm if you are a candidate for SmartCurve during your screening appointment.
Research shows that many small tumors can be seen on a mammogram before they can be felt by a woman or her health care professional. This is why mammograms are so important. Detection of an abnormality at this early stage can mean treatments that are less invasive and more effective. If your screening mammogram does show an abnormality, you may need additional imaging.
A diagnostic mammogram is used to evaluate abnormalities that have already been detected, either through a breast self-exam at home or a screening mammogram. These X-rays usually consist of three standard images of each breast plus more focused images of the area(s) of concern.
This advanced mammogram provides radiologists with an in-depth picture of problems, changes or concerning symptoms, allowing them to better assess the next course of action.
We don’t yet have a cure for breast cancer, but we are living in extraordinary times with exceptional technologies. One of the latest advancements is digital breast tomosynthesis.
Traditional mammograms, referred to as 2D or two-dimensional, usually consist of two standard images. Digital breast tomosynthesis, more commonly referred to as a 3D mammogram, is an innovative, FDA-approved digital technology that helps doctors detect smaller tumors, sooner.
First, congratulate yourself. You’re taking an important and proactive step to protect your health. And if you’re choosing to have your screening at a Memorial Hermann Imaging and Breast Care Center, you’re already off to a great start.
When you schedule your appointment, you’ll receive some information to help prepare for your screening. But below are a couple of tips to get you started:
Comparison with prior imaging is key to assessing for change and accurate diagnosis. Please bring a CD of your prior studies if your prior breast health studies were performed outside of Memorial Hermann. If you need us to request your prior films from another facility, please complete a medical release of information from and return it to our facility prior to your appointment. Once received, we will request the films.
When you arrive, one of our specialists will greet you in the waiting area with a warm, soft robe. You’ll be asked to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the X-ray picture, remove your clothes above the waist and put on your robe.
When it's time for your screening, a technician will lead you to a private room and explain the steps she will take. At this time, and throughout the process, we encourage you to ask any questions you might have about the screening.
If you’re receiving a diagnostic mammogram, be sure to show the technologist any areas of your breast that you might be concerned about.
For most patients, a mammogram screening is much easier than expected, but if at anytime you feel too uncomfortable, let us know. We are here to help.
What to expect during your mammogram:
Your mammography technician will escort you to your private mammography room. She will ask you some questions about your health history and prepare you for the procedure.
Mammograms are an important tool to rule out, or detect breast cancer, but there are limitations - mainly based on factors like age and breast density. These limitations, however, are diminishing as the technology consistently improves.
Before you schedule your mammogram, remember to consult with your doctor about personal risk factors, when you should start getting mammograms and if an annual schedule is best for you.
Breast Care Guidelines are updated regularly, so it's best to keep yourself informed with the latest news and recommendations. If you have any questions, we're happy to help.
The Memorial Hermann team recommends women begin screening for breast cancer at age 40 in accordance with The American College of Surgeons (ACS) guidelines. Also, in between mammograms, it is important to examine your breasts at home regularly to detect any abnormalities.
"Know your body. That's the No. 1 piece of advice I have to offer,” says Oncology Nurse Navigator, Carol Kirton, BSN, RN, OCN. “When you know your own body—and especially your breasts -even minor changes are more noticeable and should be brought to the attention of your physician."
In addition to the tips below, please download and print our free guide that explains how to perform a breast self-exam.
When performing a breast exam at home, check for:
A screening mammogram is an X-ray test of the breast used to screen for breast problems when there have been no concerning symptoms detected.
A diagnostic mammogram is used to evaluate abnormalities that have already been detected through a self-exam or a screening mammogram.
Digital breast tomosynthesis, more commonly referred to as a 3D mammogram, is an innovative, FDA-approved technology that helps detect smaller tumors sooner.