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What To Know Before You Go To Your First (or Next) Mammogram

Having your first mammogram can seem intimidating. Women often hear stories that can be downright scary. To help calm fears and, hopefully, share the peace of mind that having a mammogram can bring, We’ve pulled together tips and answers to frequent questions about having your first – or annual – screening mammogram.. If you have questions after checking out the information below, click on the heading for each section to read more that that topic.

  1. Why Should I Get A Mammogram?
  2. When Do I Need To Have Mammograms?
  3. What Should I Expect At My Mammogram?
  4. Does a Mammogram Hurt?
  5. How Do I Prepare For A Mammogram?
  6. How Much Radiation Is in a Mammogram?
  7. What’s The Difference Between 2D and 3D Mammograms?
  8. Can I Get A Mammogram If I Have Breast Implants?

Why Should I Get A Mammogram?

Know Before You Go: Questions about mammogramsMammography is our best tool for detecting breast cancer — at its earliest possible stage. Breast cancer is the single most common cause of death in women ages 35 to 54. Having an annual mammogram, particularly a 3D mammogram, can help to find cancers and reduce deaths among women. In fact, finding breast cancer early reduces your risk of dying from the disease by 25-30% or more.

When you do get a mammogram, make sure your imaging office is accredited as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence (BICOE) by the American College of Radiology. This designation is given to practices that meet excellence in all breast imaging procedures. Wake Radiology is proud to be the first in the Triangle area to have all 9 of its breast imaging offices designated as BICOE.

When Do I Need To Have Mammograms?

Wake Radiology’s breast imaging specialists are aligned with the current American College of Radiology (ACR) guidelines that recommend women have annual screening mammograms starting at age 40. We stand behind this recommendation even if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer.

What Should I Expect At My Mammogram?

At Wake Radiology, a mammogram – even a 3D mammogram – takes only about 30 minutes from check-in to exam completion. When you arrive for your screening mammogram, you will check in at the front desk – just like any other doctor’s appointment. A certified technologist will then call you back to a dressing room where you’ll be able to change into one of our pre-packaged, cloth gowns.

For both a 2D and 3D mammograms, a technologist will join you in a private exam room, explain the procedure and answer any questions you may have. She will help position your breast onto the platform where the images will be taken. Once in proper position, your breast will be compressed for a few short seconds while the technologist quickly captures an image. As soon as the image is taken, the compression will be released.

A 3D mammogram takes only a couple seconds longer than a traditional mammogram. In a 3D mammogram, images are taken in an arc over the breast. The additional 3D images display breast tissue in layers so that a breast imaging specialist can scan the images similar to moving through pages in a book.

After the exam is complete, the technologists will escort you back to your dressing room where you’ll change clothes and are free to go. There is no check out. A breast imaging radiologist will then review your mammogram images and compare them to any previous studies. Wake Radiology sends the results to both you and your physician. If the radiologist needs additional images to clarify an area of concern, you will be contacted promptly.

Does a Mammogram Hurt?

Contrary to popular belief, mammograms are not as uncomfortable as their reputation claims. If you’re worried about possible discomfort, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid scheduling your mammogram the week before your menstrual cycle when your breasts are most tender.
  • If your breasts get tender after drinking caffeine, skip your morning cup of coffee the day of your mammogram.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever (the kind you would normally take for a headache) an hour before your appointment.
  • Try and relax. Your entire screening experience – from arrival to being back on your way – should only take about 30 minutes.

Compression is an integral part of both a conventional mammogram and a Genius™ 3D mammogram. This part of the exam, however, only lasts a few seconds and is vital to producing the best possible breast images from the exam.

How Do I Prepare For A Mammogram?

There are several things you can do to ensure Wake Radiology captures quality images and the mammogram exam goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Avoid wearing lotion, powder, deodorant or perfume on the day of your mammogram. These products can cause spots on your breast images.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit, not a dress. Since you’ll wear a cloth gown into the exam room, you’ll only need to undress from the waist up.
  • Bring your insurance card. When you check-in for your mammogram, we’ll collect your information and file a claim directly to your insurance company. 3D mammograms are covered by most major insurance companies. We encourage you to verify coverage with your insurance carrier or your company’s Human Resources representative that a 3D screening is covered. 2D screening mammograms are covered by all insurance carriers.
  • If your insurance carrier does not cover the 3D portion of your mammogram, you will be billed for the balance. We don’t want cost to be a factor in whether or not you get a 3D mammogram. Wake Radiology offers an interest free payment plan to help you spread out this cost if necessary.

Is There Radiation In a Mammogram?

Today, modern mammography equipment produces high quality breast images using low doses of radiation. The radiation dose a woman receives with a screening mammogram is about equal to the dose received over seven weeks from natural surroundings or background radiation. At Wake Radiology, we do everything possible to reduce radiation for all patients.

What’s The Difference Between 2D and 3D Mammograms?

A 2D mammogram, also known as a traditional mammogram, is performed by compressing the breast and taking two images of each breast. 

For a 3D mammogram, the x-ray arm sweeps over the breast in an arc and captures images of your breast immediately before the 2D portion of the X-ray. This takes only a few seconds. A series of approximately 15 low-dose images at different angles are taken and the computer then generates thin, 1 millimeter slices of your whole breast.This allows our doctors to move through the images as if they were ” flipping through a book” and see detail that can often be obscured on the traditional 2D image.

 Can I Get A Mammogram If I Have Breast Implants?

Yes – and we recommend that you do! It is important to make sure that we know you have implants when you have your mammogram so that your mammography technologists can perform additional images called Eklund views during the exam. These views include four views of the breast with the implant pushed out of the mammogram view and the breast tissue itself pulled forward. These views help image the maximum amount of breast tissue around the implant without compressing the implant itself.

3D mammograms have a specific setting for breast implants. 3D images of the breast are taken of the tissue in front of the implant in addition to the regular images of the breast.

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