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What is a Mammogram?

A Mammogram is an x-ray exam of the breasts to find any abnormal changes. Mammogram results are read by a Little River Radiologist who is specially trained in detecting breast abnormalities.

The mammogram reveals changes in breast tissue that cannot be felt during a typical “hands-on” breast exam. Mammograms are typically for women experiencing any symptoms of breast abnormality, like a change in the shape or size of a breast, a lump, nipple discharge, or pain or discomfort of any level. Breast changes occur in all women and most abnormalities are benign, but only the radiologist will know for sure.

Do not schedule a Mammogram if you are pregnant.

How is a Mammogram performed?

You stand in front of a special x-ray machine. The technician who takes the x-rays places your breasts one at a time between an x-ray plate and a plastic plate. These plates are attached to the x-ray machine and compress the breasts to flatten them. This spreads the breast tissue out to obtain a clearer picture. You will feel pressure on your breast for a few seconds. It may cause some mild, short-lived discomfort. This feeling only lasts for a few seconds, and the flatter your breast, the better the picture. A screening mammogram takes about 20 minutes.

How do I schedule a Breast Exam and/or Mammogram?

There are two ways of scheduling a Mammogram, though both methods require an order from your physician. Some primary care physicians may allow you to skip the initial breast exam and strictly request a Mammogram.

Call your doctor’s office and ask if you can be ordered a mammogram at a Little River Healthcare Mammography location. Your doctor may oblige, but do not expect them to do so. The other method is to simply schedule a breast exam visit with your doctor. Your doctor is specially trained to perform a breast exam to search for lumps, tenderness, etc.

After the breast exam, your doctor may recommend a Mammogram at Little River Healthcare. If not, ask your doctor if you can have one anyway. Your doctor will likely oblige.

To learn more about the ordering process for Mammograms at the Little River Healthcare, call (512) 446-4500.

How often should I get a Mammogram?

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends:
– Women ages 50 to 74 years should get a mammogram every 2 years.
– Women younger than age 50 should talk to a doctor about when to start and how often to have a mammogram.

What can Mammograms show?

The Little River Healthcare radiologist will look at your x-rays for breast changes that do not look normal and for differences in each breast. He or she will compare your past mammograms with your most recent one to check for changes. The doctor will also look for lumps and calcifications.

Lump or Mass. The size, shape, and edges of a lump sometimes can give doctors information about whether or not it may be cancerous. Breast cancer often has a jagged outline and an irregular shape.

Calcification. A calcification is a deposit of the mineral calcium in the breast tissue. Calcifications appear as small white spots on a mammogram. There are two types:
1. Macrocalcifications are large calcium deposits often caused by aging. These are not usually a sign of breast cancer.
2. Microcalcifications are tiny bits of calcium that may be found in an area of rapidly dividing cells.

If calcifications are grouped together in a certain way, it may be a sign of cancer. Depending on how many calcium specks you have, how big they are, and what they look like, your doctor may suggest that you have other tests.

Calcium in the diet does not create calcifications in the breast. Calcium is a very necessary, healthy mineral for women’s reproductive health and should be consumed regularly to promote a healthy diet and healthy menstruation.

How do I get ready for my Mammogram?

Here are some general guidelines to follow prior to arriving for your Mammogram at a Little River Healthcare mammogram facility:

• If you are still having menstrual periods, try to avoid making your mammogram appointment during the week before your period. Your breasts will be less tender and swollen. The mammogram will hurt less and the picture will be better.

• If you have breast implants, be sure to tell your mammography facility that you have them when you make your appointment.

• Wear a shirt with shorts, pants, or a skirt. This way, you can undress from the waist up and leave your shorts, pants, or skirt on when you get your mammogram.

• DO NOT wear any deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your mammogram appointment. These things can make shadows show up on your mammogram.

What if I have breast implants?

All women, regardless of implants, should have mammograms. A woman who received an implant after a mastectomy (breast cancer surgery in which the entire breast was removed) should ask her doctor whether she needs a mammogram of the reconstructed breast.

If you have breast implants, be sure to tell your mammography facility that you have them when you make your appointment. The technician and radiologist are experienced in x-raying patients with breast implants.

Implants can hide some breast tissue, making it harder for the radiologist to see a problem when looking at your mammogram. To see as much breast tissue as possible, the x-ray technician will gently lift the breast tissue slightly away from the implant and take extra pictures of the breasts.

Can Mammograms come up false?

Little River Healthcare uses high quality mammogram x-ray machinery and employs only experienced, gentle, patient-friendly Mammography technicians to ensure the best x-raying and the clearest reading possible.

Mammograms are not perfect. But they are the best method to find breast changes that cannot be felt. If your Mammogram shows a breast change, sometimes other tests are needed to better understand those changes. Even if the radiologist sees something on the Mammogram, it does not mean it is cancer.

As with any medical test, Mammograms have limits. These limits include:

• Mammograms are only part of a complete breast exam. Your doctor also should do a clinical breast exam. If your Mammogram finds something abnormal, your doctor will order other tests.

• Finding cancer does not always mean saving lives. Even though mammography can detect tumors that cannot be felt, finding a small tumor does not always mean that a woman’s life will be saved. Mammography may not help a woman with a fast growing cancer that has already spread to other parts of her body before being found.

• False negatives can happen. This means everything may look normal, but cancer is actually present. False negatives don’t happen often. Younger women are more likely to have a false negative mammogram than are older women. The dense breasts of younger women make breast cancers harder to find in mammograms.

• False positives can happen. This is when the mammogram results look like cancer is present, even though it is not. False positives are more common in younger women, women who have had breast biopsies, women with a family history of breast cancer, and women who are taking estrogen supplements, such as menopausal hormone therapy.

• Mammograms (as well as dental x-rays and other routine x-rays) use very small doses of radiation. The risk of any harm is very slight, but repeated Mammograms can cause cancer. The benefits nearly always outweigh the risk. Talk to your doctor about the need for each x-ray. Ask about shielding to protect parts of the body that are not in the picture. You should always let your doctor and the technician know if there is any chance that you are pregnant.





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