A mammogram is a specific type of X-ray imaging. It uses low-dose radiation to examine the breasts. The goal is to identify cancer or other abnormalities in individuals with or without symptoms.
A mammogram plays an important role in the early detection of breast cancer because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before you or your doctor detect visible symptoms. After you have an initial mammogram screening, there are other types of mammograms that a radiologist can use for a more detailed view of your breasts.
Scheduling a mammogram
We offer convenient online scheduling for your mammogram. You can choose the appointment time and location that is most convenient for you:
If you prefer to make your appointment by phone, please contact Central Scheduling, Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We will be happy to assist you: 757-989-8830, option 2, or 800-675-6368, option 2.
Advantages of getting a mammogram
Mammograms can detect tumors before they can be felt or cause other symptoms. The exam may also help identify small calcium deposits which can sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Screening mammograms are used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. The screening usually involves two X-rays of each breast. To see guidelines on when to start having mammograms, read our Important Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations.
If a problem is found or there are special circumstances such as a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may order a diagnostic mammogram. Some of the reasons for having a diagnostic mammogram are:
- You or your doctor found a lump in your breast
- You have a symptom of breast cancer: skin thickening, nipple discharge or change in breast size or shape
- Your most recent screening mammogram showed changes in your breast
- Your breast tissue is very dense or you have breast implants making it hard to screen
The imaging technologist will take additional X-rays and may use a diagnostic mammogram to see a suspicious area in greater detail. By providing greater detail, the diagnostic mammogram can help your doctor make a more accurate assessment.
What to expect
On the day of your mammogram, you should wear a two-piece outfit since you’ will need to undress from the waist up for the exam. The technologist will give you wipes to remove any deodorants, antiperspirants, powders or creams. These may show up on the X-ray and make reading the results more difficult.
Once you are in the exam room, the technologist will position your breast on a special platform of the mammogram machine. Using a flat paddle, your breast will gradually be compressed on the platform. You will feel pressure as the machine compresses your breast and for some women, this can feel very uncomfortable. Be sure to let the technologist know if you feel pain so that the pressure can be adjusted. The compression is important because it spreads out the breast tissue allowing the machine to get a clear image of your breast so doctors can identify areas that do not look normal.
The mammogram takes only seconds and the dose of radiation is very low. Once an image is taken, the technologist will help you change position. Usually, two images are made of each breast.
Following the exam
You will be asked to wait a few minutes while the technologist makes certain the images are clear enough for the radiologist to read. The total exam will only take about 30 minutes. After the radiologist studies your test results they will be communicated to your doctor who will call you if there is a concern. If you do not have a doctor you will get your results via mail.