Advanced diagnostic and screening mammography

Mammogram and 3D Mammography

Mammography takes low-dose X-ray pictures of breast tissue. The test can identify lumps, tumors or other abnormalities you may not feel.

At Beth Israel Lahey Health Breast Center–Plymouth, you can access different types of mammography.

  • Screening mammogram. This routine test creates standard images of the breast and serves as a baseline for future mammograms. Screening mammograms can spot cancerous or precancerous spots.
  • Diagnostic mammogram. These tests take standard focused images of specific areas of breast tissue. A diagnostic mammogram is performed when there are physical symptoms, such as a lump, pain or skin changes.

Diagnostic and screening mammograms create black and white, two-dimensional pictures of breast tissue.

  • 3D mammography. This test is also called breast tomosynthesis. It uses low-dose X-ray imaging. During a 3D mammogram, the machine takes many X-rays as it moves around the breast. A computer combines the images into a series of slices. This creates images that can find any abnormalities that may be too small to be felt on a regular breast exam.

Each exam is tailored to your unique situation. It is common to also have a breast ultrasound after a diagnostic mammogram. Some patients may also be referred for an MRI.

Benefits of 3D Mammography

We offer 3D mammography for women of all ages and breast densities. Images from a 3D mammogram more accurately pinpoint the size, shape and location of breast abnormalities.

Many studies show the benefits of this test, especially for women with dense breast tissue. Advancements include:

  • A 41% increase in detecting invasive breast cancers.
  • A 29% increase in finding all breast cancers.
  • A 15% decrease in women called back for more imaging.

What To Expect During a Mammogram

When you come to BID Plymouth for a mammogram, you'll be with us for about 30 minutes. You change out of your clothes, from the waist up, in a private room. We give you a gown to wear that opens in the front.

Your technician takes you into the imaging room, where:

  • You stand next to the mammogram machine while the technician adjusts the height.
  • The technician positions one breast on a flat plate, and another plate compresses the breast tissue.
  • You will feel pressure, and you may feel some minor pain.
  • Images are captured in just a few seconds from two different angles.
  • The top plate releases automatically as soon as images are done.
  • The process is repeated for the other breast.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about what happens before and after your mammogram.

How do I prepare for my mammogram?

First, you'll fill out a patient history form. Be sure to include any family history of breast cancer. Also, try to schedule your mammogram for the week after your period, when your breasts are less likely to feel tender.

On the day of the test:

  • Avoid wearing perfume, powder or deodorant, which can cause false abnormalities.
  • Be sure to remove all necklaces, which can interfere with the testing process.
What happens if something is found on my screening mammogram?

If we do find something of note, we will contact you within two business days to schedule a follow-up visit. It's important to understand a second mammography often reveals that the area of concern is, in fact, normal.

Sometimes, the new imaging may confirm a concern or abnormality. If so, a physician will discuss your test results with you immediately and discuss the potential need for breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a biopsy.

What happens if something is found on my diagnostic mammogram?

Sometimes, test results may reveal the need for more testing. If so, your doctor would then order a breast ultrasound or breast biopsy to gather more information about the abnormality. If you do need a biopsy, we will schedule it before you go home.

Does mammography find all breast cancers?

No, unfortunately it does not. About 10% of all cancers are not found by mammography. The best way to detect breast cancer is to establish a routine of regular self-exams, doctor's breast exams and mammograms.

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