What to Expect
- Please arrive 15 minutes before your exam time to fill out any paperwork that may be needed.
- Most women prefer to wear a two piece outfit for comfort.
- Do not apply deodorant, powder, lotions or sunscreen to the breast and underarm area. These may contain ingredients that may interfere with the visualization of the breast tissue.
You will be escorted to the dressing room by one of the breast center staff. You will be instructed to undress from the waist up. We will provide you a gown to wear. Please have the opening in the front of the body. You will be given a wipe to remove any deodorant, powder or lotion from the breast and underarm area. We will provide you with deodorant if you wish to re-apply after the exam. You will be instructed to take a seat in the gowned waiting area.
The digital mammogram exam:
- The technologist will come to the gowned waiting area to get you for your exam. Once inside the mammography room, the technologist will document and verify your breast history for interpreting radiologist. She will check your breasts for any scars or moles and will identify these for the radiologist with a small sticky marker.
- The screening exam consists of 4 views (2 views of each breast), one from top to bottom and one from side to side. The technologist will remove the gown from one breast and place the breast on the horizontal platform of the mammography equipment. She will lower the compression paddle onto the breast. Compression is needed to smooth out the small structures within the breast and to reduce the amount of radiation needed to image the breast. The compression will remain on the breast until the digital image is captured, approximately 10 seconds. The compression automatically releases as soon as the image has been captured. The technologist will rotate the equipment for the next view and apply the compression as before. These 2 views will then be repeated on the other breast. The total exam takes less than 15 minutes.
- The technologist is not able to interpret your images. The interpreting physicans are board certified by the American College of Radiology and specialize in breast imaging ensuring that the highest standards of care and mammography are provided. Radiologists at Swedish also use computer aided detection (CAD) technology, which increases the likelihood of detecting the small or early stage cancers. You will receive your results within 7-10 days of your exam.
- If there is a need for additional imaging after the interpretation is completed, you will receive a phone call from the breast center staff to assist you getting a return appointment.
Still, mammography is not a perfect science. Besides missing about 10 percent of cancers, it has also been known to sound false alarms, sometimes leading to surgical biopsies that later turned out to be unnecessary. Fortunately, there are things women can do to increase their likelihood of an accurate exam. The American Cancer Society recommends the following:
- Go to an imaging center that either specializes in mammograms or does many mammograms a day; more experienced centers tend to have better accuracy rates
- If you like the center, go there for all future mammograms; this makes it easier to compare your tests from year to year
- If you’ve had mammograms someplace else, make every attempt to bring or transfer the previous mammograms to the new center
- Don’t wear deodorant; it can look like calcium spots on the X-ray film
- Discuss any unusual symptoms with the technologist and doctor and be prepared to discuss your medical history
Meanwhile, other diagnostic tools are now available to help doctors double-check the results of an abnormal mammogram. Ultrasound, for instance, can provide a clearer view of an unusual mass. And there are new alternatives to surgical biopsies, such as very fine needles that can be used to obtain sample breast tissues for further analysis.
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