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?

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:

  • You will answer some personal and family history questions so we can better assess your breast cancer risk
  • 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 to schedule additional imaging. This will often be a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. Frequently this additional imagine reveals that the area of concern is, in fact normal.

What happens if something is found on my diagnostic mammogram?

Depending on the finding, the radiologist may recommend a biopsy, or to return in several months to reevaluate the area. It's possible they may also recommend having a breast MRI.

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.

Make an Appointment