What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a safe, low-dose x-ray picture of the breast. It is currently the most effective method of detecting breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
Why should I have a mammogram?
A mammogram can find breast cancer that is too small to be seen or felt. If breast cancer is found early on a mammogram, it can be treated early when it is easiest to cure. In some cases, finding a breast lump early may mean that a patient can choose surgery to save her breast. Early detection also may mean that chemotherapy is unnecessary.
How is a mammogram done?
When you have a mammogram, you stand in front of a special x-ray machine. The radiologic technologist lifts each breast and places it on a platform that holds the x-ray film. The breast is then gradually pressed against the platform by a specially designed, clear plastic plate. Some pressure is applied for a few seconds to make sure the x-rays show as much of the breast as possible. This pressure is not harmful to your breast. Studies show that most women do not find a mammogram exam painful for the short time needed to take the picture.
Should women be concerned about radiation dose during mammography?
No. The risk of harm from radiation is very small when compared to the benefits of early breast cancer detection. MQSA has established a maximum radiation dose limit that is considered to be safe. There have been such improvements in mammography that women receive 50 times less radiation than they received 20 years ago, with the risk of long-term effects being almost zero.
What is a screening mammogram?
A screening mammogram is a quick, easy way to detect breast cancer early when treatment is more effective and survival is high. It is a x-ray of the breast that doctors use to look for breast changes in women with no symptoms of breast cancer. Usually, two x-ray pictures are taken of each breast. A physician trained to read the mammograms examines them later. Screening for breast cancer is best achieved by including both mammography and a clinical breast examination in the screening process.
What is a diagnostic mammography exam?
A doctor uses a diagnostic mammogram to help learn the cause of a woman’s breast problems such as a breast mass, skin changes, or nipple discharge. Diagnostic mammography takes a little longer than screening mammography because more x-rays are taken. A qualified physician may check the mammograms while you wait.
How will a patient get the results of her mammogram?
Her mammography facility must provide her with a written report of the results of the exam. The results can be handed to her at the time of the exam, or mailed to her within 30 days after the exam. The report must be in words she can easily understand. Her doctor will be sent a copy of the more technical version of the exam results.
How will patients who do not have a doctor get their results?
Her mammography facility will provide her with the patient’s version of the results and a copy of the technical report within 30 days of the exam. If necessary, the facility personnel will refer her to a doctor.
What should a patient do if she does not receive her written results within 30 days?
If she does not receive her results within 30 days, she should call the mammography facility or her doctor, and ask for the results of the exam. This is very important. The results of most mammograms are “normal” – but the patient should not assume the mammogram is normal if she does not receive her results!
Are there special considerations for reporting results when they are “suspicious” or “highly suggestive of a malignancy”?
Yes. In these cases, the facility is expected to contact the patient as soon as possible. Although it is impossible to establish a precise time frame, it is expected that such communication could ordinarily be accomplished within five business days. Some facilities may discuss the results with the patient following the exam, or contact her by phone. Even if the results are given to the patient verbally, she should receive a written notification within 30 days.