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Mammography

The best chance for early detection for breast cancer

Annual mammograms are vital to the health and longevity of you and your loved ones. Early detection of breast cancer can increase a woman's five-year survival rate to 97 percent. 

IU Health Cancer Centers recommends annual mammograms for women. Women with or without a family history of breast cancer should consult their doctor to see if they should begin screening sooner.

At IU Health Cancer Centers, you have access to the latest imaging options. Our specialized imaging technology features:

  • 3D mammograms
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of breast
  • Automated Breast Ultra Sound (ABUS)
  • Genetic testing

These all assist our expert team in identifying breast cancer in the early stages.

Overview

At IU Health Cancer Centers, you have access to the latest imaging options. Our specialized imaging technology features:

  • 3D mammograms
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of breast
  • Automated Breast Ultra Sound (ABUS)
  • Genetic testing

These all assist our expert team in identifying breast cancer in the early stages.

Screening Mammogram

During your screening, a mammography technologist meets you and walks you back to change into a gown and prepare for your exam.

You face the equipment while the technologist gets you in the right position, helping to place your breast on the plates of the machine. You hold your breath for a few seconds while the machine compresses (flattens) your breast. The technologist helps you change positions a few times to get different images of each breast.

Some women have discomfort during breast compression, but it should only last a few seconds. Tell the technologist if the discomfort is too much. Compressing your breasts is necessary to get accurate images, but your comfort is important.

If you have breast tenderness before or during your menstrual period, you might schedule your screening mammogram for the week after your period.

Watch: What to Expect for Mammogram

Diagnostic Mammogram

Typically, a diagnostic mammogram is used for women who have experienced unusual changes in the breast. Symptoms could include:

  • Lump
  • Breast pain
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Nipple discharge

Diagnostic mammograms will provide the radiologist more details views of the breast and help determine if there is presence of cancer.

Advanced & Innovative Technologies

IU Health Cancer Centers offers patients the most advanced screening options available today. You are able to access these options at various IU Health locations.

Digital Mammography

Digital (computerized) mammography is similar to standard mammography in that X-rays are used to produce detailed images of the breast, however the system is equipped with a digital receptor and a computer instead of a film cassette.

Your radiologist will view the images on a high-resolution computer monitor that makes it easier to detect breast tumors among the normal dark and light areas of a mammogram.

3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis) 

Three-dimensional mammography more effectively screens for invasive tumors when used in combination with traditional, 2D mammography, especially if you have dense breast tissue.

Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with Computer-aided Diagnosis (CAD)

An MRI exam may be completed in addition to a mammogram and ultrasound imaging for patients who are at high risk of developing breast cancer

In addition, breast MRI can help evaluate the extent of known diseases, measure the effectiveness of chemotherapy and assess for breast implant rupture.

Unless you are having implants evaluated, you may have intravenous contrast during your breast MRI exam to help produce a clearer picture. Breast MRI is a helpful tool, but it does not take the place of standard screening and diagnostic mammography procedures.

R2 ImageChecker® System

Your screening and digital mammography is further enhanced by the use of the R2 ImageChecker® System, which is similar to a "spell checker" for medical images.

The R2 ImageChecker® System is the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CAD mammography system for use in breast cancer screening. Your images are reviewed by both the radiologist and the CAD system. If CAD marks an area on the image, the radiologist goes back to the original mammogram to review the area in detail to determine if further evaluation is necessary.

Breast Ultrasound

A breast ultrasound is not a screening tool, but may be used to further evaluate an abnormality felt during a physical breast exam or seen on a mammogram. Ultrasounds use sound waves to produce images that allow the radiologist to determine if a breast mass is solid or a fluid-filled cyst.

Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS)

IU Health offers the latest technological advancement in breast screening with the addition of the Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS). ABUS is an FDA-approved screening technology for women with dense breast tissue. More than 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue or extremely dense breasts.

ABUS provides 3D ultrasound images of the whole breast, giving our highly skilled physicians a clearer look at all of the breast tissue and a better chance at detecting cancers that may be hidden in dense tissue on a mammogram.

Cyst aspiration

If a cyst is found during breast ultrasound, you may have cyst aspiration to drain fluid from the breast cyst. During cyst aspiration, the radiologist inserts a very small needle into the cyst, removing the fluid. You should experience minimal discomfort during this process.

Image-Guided Breast Biopsy

If there is a concern within your breast, you may have a biopsy to obtain a sample of tissue within the breast. You will be under local anesthesia and won’t feel any pain while multiple small samples of tissue are obtained through a needle for analysis. There are three main types of breast biopsy, including: 

  • Stereotactic core needle biopsy: this procedure uses a computer program with X-ray guidance.
  • Ultrasound core needle breast biopsy: this procedure uses ultrasound to direct the needle into the area of concern.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guided core needle biopsy: this procedure uses MRI guidance to locate the area of concern. 

What to Expect for Your Mammogram

Screening Mammogram

During your screening, a mammography technologist meets you and walks you back to change into a gown and prepare for your exam.

You face the equipment while the technologist gets you in the right position, helping to place your breast on the plates of the machine. You hold your breath for a few seconds while the machine compresses (flattens) your breast. The technologist helps you change positions a few times to get different images of each breast.

Some women have discomfort during breast compression, but it should only last a few seconds. Tell the technologist if the discomfort is too much. Compressing your breasts is necessary to get accurate images, but your comfort is important.

If you have breast tenderness before or during your menstrual period, you might schedule your screening mammogram for the week after your period.

Watch: What to Expect for Mammogram

Diagnostic Mammogram

Typically, a diagnostic mammogram is used for women who have experienced unusual changes in the breast. Symptoms could include:

  • Lump
  • Breast pain
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Nipple discharge

Diagnostic mammograms will provide the radiologist more details views of the breast and help determine if there is presence of cancer.

Advanced & Innovative Technologies

IU Health Cancer Centers offers patients the most advanced screening options available today. You are able to access these options at various IU Health locations.

Digital Mammography

Digital (computerized) mammography is similar to standard mammography in that X-rays are used to produce detailed images of the breast, however the system is equipped with a digital receptor and a computer instead of a film cassette.

Your radiologist will view the images on a high-resolution computer monitor that makes it easier to detect breast tumors among the normal dark and light areas of a mammogram.

3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis) 

Three-dimensional mammography more effectively screens for invasive tumors when used in combination with traditional, 2D mammography, especially if you have dense breast tissue.

Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with Computer-aided Diagnosis (CAD)

An MRI exam may be completed in addition to a mammogram and ultrasound imaging for patients who are at high risk of developing breast cancer

In addition, breast MRI can help evaluate the extent of known diseases, measure the effectiveness of chemotherapy and assess for breast implant rupture.

Unless you are having implants evaluated, you may have intravenous contrast during your breast MRI exam to help produce a clearer picture. Breast MRI is a helpful tool, but it does not take the place of standard screening and diagnostic mammography procedures.

R2 ImageChecker® System

Your screening and digital mammography is further enhanced by the use of the R2 ImageChecker® System, which is similar to a "spell checker" for medical images.

The R2 ImageChecker® System is the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CAD mammography system for use in breast cancer screening. Your images are reviewed by both the radiologist and the CAD system. If CAD marks an area on the image, the radiologist goes back to the original mammogram to review the area in detail to determine if further evaluation is necessary.

Breast Ultrasound

A breast ultrasound is not a screening tool, but may be used to further evaluate an abnormality felt during a physical breast exam or seen on a mammogram. Ultrasounds use sound waves to produce images that allow the radiologist to determine if a breast mass is solid or a fluid-filled cyst.

Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS)

IU Health offers the latest technological advancement in breast screening with the addition of the Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS). ABUS is an FDA-approved screening technology for women with dense breast tissue. More than 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue or extremely dense breasts.

ABUS provides 3D ultrasound images of the whole breast, giving our highly skilled physicians a clearer look at all of the breast tissue and a better chance at detecting cancers that may be hidden in dense tissue on a mammogram.

Cyst aspiration

If a cyst is found during breast ultrasound, you may have cyst aspiration to drain fluid from the breast cyst. During cyst aspiration, the radiologist inserts a very small needle into the cyst, removing the fluid. You should experience minimal discomfort during this process.

Image-Guided Breast Biopsy

If there is a concern within your breast, you may have a biopsy to obtain a sample of tissue within the breast. You will be under local anesthesia and won’t feel any pain while multiple small samples of tissue are obtained through a needle for analysis. There are three main types of breast biopsy, including: 

  • Stereotactic core needle biopsy: this procedure uses a computer program with X-ray guidance.
  • Ultrasound core needle breast biopsy: this procedure uses ultrasound to direct the needle into the area of concern.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guided core needle biopsy: this procedure uses MRI guidance to locate the area of concern. 

Don’t wear deodorant, powder or lotions under your arms or on your breasts before a mammogram. If you do, you can remove it with a wipe we provide in the changing room. These substances can show up on a mammogram and confuse the results.

Preparing for Your Mammogram

Don’t wear deodorant, powder or lotions under your arms or on your breasts before a mammogram. If you do, you can remove it with a wipe we provide in the changing room. These substances can show up on a mammogram and confuse the results.

Your mammogram technologist may ask you to wait for a minute or two after the exam to make sure the images are clear. You receive results within 72 hours after a screening mammogram. If you had a mammogram to diagnose a problem, you receive results the same day. 

Next Steps

If your mammogram shows something suspicious, you may need another type of imaging or a breast biopsy. A breast health nurse navigator works closely with you to explain the tests and what is happening every step of the way.

After Your Mammogram

Your mammogram technologist may ask you to wait for a minute or two after the exam to make sure the images are clear. You receive results within 72 hours after a screening mammogram. If you had a mammogram to diagnose a problem, you receive results the same day. 

Next Steps

If your mammogram shows something suspicious, you may need another type of imaging or a breast biopsy. A breast health nurse navigator works closely with you to explain the tests and what is happening every step of the way.

Be sure to write down in advance the questions you want to ask your provider so you don’t forget them at your appointment.

  • Can I take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain reliever before my mammogram to reduce discomfort?
  • I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, but I worry about it. Can I start screening at an earlier age?
  • How will you inform me of the results—by letter, electronically or by phone? What if the result is not good? 
  • What if I have breast implants? Does that affect my mammograms?
  • I don’t have health insurance but need a mammogram. Are there programs that provide screening?
  • I’m a man with a family history of breast cancer. Should I have mammograms? How do you screen men?

Questions to Ask Your Provider

Be sure to write down in advance the questions you want to ask your provider so you don’t forget them at your appointment.

  • Can I take ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain reliever before my mammogram to reduce discomfort?
  • I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, but I worry about it. Can I start screening at an earlier age?
  • How will you inform me of the results—by letter, electronically or by phone? What if the result is not good? 
  • What if I have breast implants? Does that affect my mammograms?
  • I don’t have health insurance but need a mammogram. Are there programs that provide screening?
  • I’m a man with a family history of breast cancer. Should I have mammograms? How do you screen men?

RadiologyInfo.org

The American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America features broad information about mammography and how it benefits you and your physician.

Resources

RadiologyInfo.org

The American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America features broad information about mammography and how it benefits you and your physician.

Patient Stories for Mammography