What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray used to examine the breasts.
What is a digital mammogram?
A digital mammogram uses no film. Instead it uses a detector to convert the X-ray into an image, similar to the way a digital camera works. Images are viewed on a large computer screen. Analog (film) mammography and digital mammography both use compression of the breast to image the tissue. In a very large trial, digital mammograms were shown to detect breast cancer more often in patients with dense breasts, patients under 50 and premenopausal patients. All of the mammography units at Greensboro Imaging are digital because we believe in the highest quality care for our patients.
What is the difference in a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?
A screening mammogram is a study performed on a woman who has no problems. The American College of Radiology recommends that a woman have a screening mammogram every year beginning at age 40. In some cases, screening should begin earlier, such as if a woman is at higher risk for developing breast cancer. A screening mammogram can be scheduled by calling our center directly at 336-271-4999.
A diagnostic mammogram is a specialized mammogram tailored to answer a specific question. It is performed for women who have felt a lump, have breast changes or have been called back after a screening mammogram. At The Breast Center of Greensboro Imaging, a diagnostic mammogram is read by the radiologist at the time of the exam. Sometimes a breast ultrasound is helpful in evaluating a part of the breast further. This is usually performed on the same day as the diagnostic mammogram. The radiologist then discusses the results of all studies directly with the patient before she leaves the center.
How should I prepare for a mammogram?
Discuss any breast changes with your doctor before your appointment to be sure that you are scheduled for the proper exam. Do not wear deodorant, powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts the day of your mammogram. If you have had a prior mammogram, bring it with you to your appointment or have it sent to us.
What if I am called back after a screening mammogram?
Don’t panic! It is relatively common to be called back after a screening exam. About one in ten patients will need further imaging performed. Someone from The Breast Center will contact you to make an appointment for a diagnostic exam. At that time, a tailored mammogram exam will be performed, which may involve different views than the ones you have had already. After that, you may also have an ultrasound exam, depending on the findings. A Board Certified Radiologist (physician) with special training in breast imaging will discuss the findings with you at the end of your exams and you will have a chance to ask questions. Most women who are called back have no real problem and can go back to a regular screening schedule.
What if I need to have a biopsy?
At The Breast Center of Greensboro Imaging, we are able to perform image-guided biopsies, the standard of care in breast diagnosis. These procedures do not require a visit to the operating room or sedation and are well tolerated. Results are usually available the next day.
Do you offer breast MRI?
Yes, our physicians have extensive experience with breast MRI. Our breast MRI program is accredited by the American College of Radiology. Our MRIs are performed at our sister site, Greensboro Imaging, at 315 West Wendover, and are read by our breast imagers in conjunction with other breast imaging studies you may have had. MRI guided biopsies are performed at the same site.
What is a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence?
The American College of Radiology has accredited the Breast Center of Greensboro Imaging as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE). This means that our center has met the rigid and voluntary criteria for mammography, breast ultrasound, ultrasound biopsy and stereotactic biopsy. Our facility was the first in the region to be accredited by the ACR as a BICOE.
Should I have another breast imaging study in addition to a mammogram?
Mammograms are considered the standard of care for breast cancer screening and are the only breast screening studies shown to save lives. In certain situations, your physician may recommend you have other studies, such as ultrasound or MRI, in addition to a mammogram. If you are under 30 and have a breast problem, your exam may begin with breast ultrasound rather than a mammogram.
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
Risk factors that cannot be modified:
- Gender: Being female is the main risk factor for breast cancer
- Age: The risk of breast cancer increases with age
- Genetics: 5–10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary
- Family history: 15% of women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease, though 85% of women with breast cancer have no family history
- Personal history: 3–4–fold increased risk of new cancer after diagnosis of cancer
- Ethnicity: Caucasian women have a slightly higher risk of developing cancer than African-American women, but
African-American women are more likely to die of the disease; Asian, Hispanic and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying of breast cancer
- Breast density: Women with denser breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer since dense breast tissue makes a mammogram harder to read
- High risk lesions: Certain prior biopsies show a higher risk
- Menstrual periods: Having more menstrual cycles at an early age or at a later age increases risk
- Prior chest radiation: Radiation therapy at an early age increases the risk of breast cancer
Risk factors that can be modified:
- Alcohol: Risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed
- Obesity: Increases risk especially after menopause
- Physical activity: Reduces risk
- Breast feeding: Reduces risk
- Hormone therapy: Recent use of combined hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone) increases risk
- Having children: Women who have no children or have their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher risk for breast cancer
What if I am at “high risk” for breast cancer?
You may not be as high risk as you think. First, discuss your risk factors with your physician. Most people with a family history of breast cancer do not get breast cancer. If you have some of the risk factors listed above, your risk may still be only slightly above average. Standard screening recommendations (annual digital mammography, annual physical exams and monthly breast self exams) may be appropriate.
For patients in the highest risk group, the American Cancer Society recommends additional screening with annual breast MRI in addition to annual mammograms. For example, these are patients with a personal or family history of genetic testing that is positive for the breast cancer genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2), history of chest radiation at a young age, several close family members with breast cancer or a lifetime estimated risk of 20–25% based on available risk assessment tools.
What if I have no family history of breast cancer am I protected?
No. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer. All women, regardless of family history, need to have annual mammograms beginning at age 40.
When can I stop having mammograms?
The risk of breast cancer increases with age. The recommendation of the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology is that you continue to have mammograms as long as you are in good health.
Can I skip a year?
The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology recommend mammograms every year so that if there is a developing cancer, it can be caught as early as possible. Treatment options for cancers are better if they are smaller and have not spread to other parts of the body.
More Information About Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Overview