FAQs about Mammograms

Do I need a mammogram?
Does a mammogram hurt?
What about radiation used in mammography?
When will I get the results?
What if I have questions?

Also see: What to expect at your mammogram

Do I need a mammogram?

See the latest screening guidelines for recommendations. A mammogram can make a big difference in your quality of life. Chances are, it will reassure you that everything is fine. But, if something unusual does show up on your mammogram, you will have given yourself an incredible gift. Because breast-health problems found early are very treatable. 

Does a mammogram hurt?

Most women who have had a mammogram will tell you that breast compression is uncomfortable, but not painful. It is a good idea, however, to schedule your mammogram when your breasts are least tender — typically two or three days following the end of your menstrual cycle. You may also want to consider taking a pain-reliever to reduce the discomfort.

What about the radiation used in mammography?

We use only the most modern mammography equipment — which uses a very low X-ray dose. Your risk from radiation exposure is very small compared to the benefit of finding a problem early.

At Swedish, all mammograms are performed utilizing the latest technologies such as full-field digital mammography. Unlike traditional film-screen mammography, digital mammograms produce images that can detect the most subtle signs of cancer including tiny spots in breast tissue called microcalcifications. Using high-resolution monitors, a radiologist can adjust the brightness, change contrast and zoom in for close ups of specific areas of a breast. The images appear on the monitors in a matter of seconds, so there’s no waiting for film to develop which can mean a faster diagnosis for the patient.

Swedish offers conventional digital mammography as well as digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D mammography. With tomosynthesis, an X-ray beam sweeps through the breast in an arc and takes pictures of multiple "slices" of breast tissue. A radiologist then looks through the series of images. Digital tomosynthesis allows the detection of small abnormalities that may be hidden by normal breast tissue. It also allows the radiologist to tell the difference between a clump of normal tissue and a true mass.

In the past, media stories have focused on the relationship of mammography and thyroid cancer.

Read the full statement from the Swedish Breast Centers medical leadership regarding this issue

When will I get the results?

Your report will be in the mail within 7-10 days of your visit — after your films have been reviewed by a board-certified, specially trained radiologist. Radiologists at Swedish also use computer-aided detection (CAD) technology which increases the likelihood of detecting small or early stage cancers. If your mammogram raises any concerns, we will contact you and your doctor immediately. Likewise, if you are worried about your mammogram, please let your doctor or our staff know.

What if I have questions?

It's not unusual to have questions. Our nurse educators are a terrific resource for anyone with questions about breast health or mammography. She even can help you with a personal risk assessment.