How is a screening mammogram performed?

Typically mammograms are 2 views of each breast: one taken from above the breast, the other from the side of the breast. Your breast is placed on a flat plate and pressed firmly between 2 plastic plates. The procedure takes just a few minutes and is performed by a trained mammographer who will do everything she can to make your exam as quick and comfortable as possible.

How do I prepare for my mammogram?

  • Avoid scheduling your mammogram around your period if your breasts are typically tender during this time.
  • Do not apply any deodorant, lotion, oils or talcum powder prior to the exam. These can appear on images as calcifications and other abnormalities within the breast.
  • Relax and know that we will take good care of you!

Why the pressure/compression?

We flatten the breast tissue so there is less tissue overlap for better visualization of anatomy and potential abnormities. 

  • Allows for lower x-ray dose with a thinner amount of tissue
  • Immobility to eliminate blurring of image from motion

How do I get my results?

Your screening exam will typically be interpreted by the radiologist within 24 hrs of your exam.  If the radiologist recommends additional imaging, the mammographer will contact you and schedule an appointment for you to return for these.  If your exam is normal, we will mail you a letter letting you know and a report will be faxed to your ordering physician.

How often do I need a mammogram?

According to the American Cancer Society, women age 40-44 should begin having screening mammograms. Women age 45-54 should have yearly mammograms. Women 55 and older may continue yearly mammograms or begin having them every 2 years. This decision should be made between you and your physician.

At what age should I stop having mammograms?

Screening mammograms should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.  But again, this is a decision between you and your physician.

Do I need an order from my doctor?

Yes. The only time you do not need a doctor’s order is if you have been called back for additional imaging or are returning for a recommended follow-up (i.e., 6 months).

What is the difference between 3D and 2D mammography?

  • 3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, is performed in conjunction with a traditional 2D mammogram to create a more complete picture of the breast.
  • A 2D mammogram is taking an image of the breast from front to back and side to side. A 3D mammogram images slices of the breast from different angles creating a 3D image. These images provide greater detail and allow the radiologist to see “inside” the breast layer to find cancers earlier than ever.
  • I’ve heard it explained as a book: In a 2D mammogram, you are looking at a book from the front to back covers with the pages stacked in between.  In a 3D mammogram, you are actually fanning through the pages of the book to see better of what is inside between the pages.  These pages are no longer stacked on top of each other. 
  • 3D mammography is performed just as 2D with the exception that the unit will arc slightly above you during the exposure.  Yes, there is still compression of the breast.

Who should get a 3D mammogram?

Women with dense breast tissue will likely benefit the most from tomosynthesis.  On a mammogram, glandular (dense) tissue appears white and fatty tissue appears gray. However, cancer also appears white on a mammogram. Since the radiologist is able to view the breast in thin slices, a 3D mammogram can better differentiate cancer from overlying glandular tissue increasing cancer detection.

What are the real benefits of 3D Mammography?

Because the “unstacked” images mean additional information, 3D has been shown to reduce call-back rates so that fewer women need to return for additional images. Studies have also shown that 3D can increase detection of cancer by anywhere from 27% to 50%.

Will my insurance pay for 3D mammography?

Even though 3D mammography is FDA approved, many insurance companies are not yet reimbursing for this exam. Patients who choose to have the 3D mammography performed need to check with their insurance company prior to their exam to see if they cover this additional cost. They will need to provide the CPT code “77063” to the insurance company for the 3D reimbursement code. Note: Medicare and Medicaid do reimburse for 3D mammography.

Culbertson Memorial Hospital will submit a claim for the 3D component in case the insurance company decides to cover this exam. The fees for the 2D portion of the exam will be billed to your insurance as usual.