Mammography

The best chance for early detection for breast cancer

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 recommends routine screening mammography to improve the likelihood of detecting breast cancer early. If you have questions about your level of risk, schedule a visit with your primary care provider.

Have you been putting off getting your mammogram because you are concerned about the risks with COVID-19? IU Health has taken thoughtful steps to make sure you feel confident and comfortable with the care you receive at our locations.

Learn more about our Safe Care Pledge and what to expect when you visit an IU Health location.

Screening Mammograms & COVID-19 Vaccines

Screening mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines are both very important for your health. Some women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine develop swollen lymph nodes under their arm on the same side as their vaccine injection.

This is the normal immune reaction to a vaccine. These swollen lymph nodes usually return to normal on their own in a few days or weeks.

Learn more about screening mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines.

Caring for You During COVID-19

Have you been putting off getting your mammogram because you are concerned about the risks with COVID-19? IU Health has taken thoughtful steps to make sure you feel confident and comfortable with the care you receive at our locations.

Learn more about our Safe Care Pledge and what to expect when you visit an IU Health location.

Screening Mammograms & COVID-19 Vaccines

Screening mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines are both very important for your health. Some women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine develop swollen lymph nodes under their arm on the same side as their vaccine injection.

This is the normal immune reaction to a vaccine. These swollen lymph nodes usually return to normal on their own in a few days or weeks.

Learn more about screening mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Learn what to expect during your appointment. We provide tips to make your mammogram go as smoothly as possible.

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.

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?

Frequently Asked Questions

Scheduling & What to Expect

To schedule your mammogram, call the location that is most convenient for you.

View a full list of locations offering mammograms.

We offer mammograms in Indianapolis, Avon, Bedford, Brownsburg, Carmel, Fishers, Frankfort, Hartford City, Lafayette, Martinsville, Monticello, Muncie, Tipton and West Lafayette.

To schedule your mammogram, call the location most convenient for you.

View a full list of locations offering mammograms.

Screening mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines are both very important for your health.

Some women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine develop swollen lymph nodes under their arm on the same side as their vaccine injection.

This is the normal immune reaction to a vaccine. These swollen lymph nodes usually return to normal on their own in a few days or weeks.

Learn more and get answers to your questions: Screening Mammography & COVID-19 Vaccine: What to Know

Mammograms are performed by mammography technologists. The technologist will position your breast in the mammogram machine. The machine immobilizes the breast with compression. Once the breast is appropriately positioned, a mammogram is obtained (a low dose x-ray picture of the breast). Screening mammogram results are then mailed to the patient within several days.

Yes, ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain reliever may be taken before your mammogram.

Results are mailed or are available on our patient portal.

About Your Mammogram

Routine mammography has been proven to reduce mortality from breast cancer. The goal is early detection. Breast cancer is easier to treat when it is detected early.

All women over 40 should receive routine screening mammograms based on their level of risk for breast cancer. Your risk level can be determined by your primary care provider.

Women should meet with their primary care provider to discuss their level of risk for breast cancer and when it would be best for them to start getting mammograms. Each woman is different and requires a personalized approach to their screening care.

IU Health recommends routine screening mammography to improve the likelihood of detecting breast cancer early. If you have questions about your level of risk, schedule a visit with your primary care provider.

No, mammograms are not recommended for men.

Men are screened when needed with a clinical breast exam. If there is a known genetic mutation in a family member (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2), he may benefit from a risk assessment.

Patients needing to come back for supplemental imaging (an abnormal screening exam) are typically notified by phone and mail.

There is no proven benefit to beginning screening mammography prior to age 40 for women with no known genetic risk factors.

Having dense breast tissue is common (about half of the population) and normal. It is more common in younger and thinner women. It is important to be aware if you have dense breast tissue. It can limit the sensitivity of your mammogram and it does slightly increase your risk of developing breast cancer. If you have dense breast tissue, you may be eligible for supplemental screening. At IU Health, we offer whole breast automated breast ultrasound (ABUS) as a supplemental screening option.

Thermography is not approved by the FDA to replace mammography for breast cancer screening. There are currently no studies supporting the use of thermography alone or thermography as an adjunct to mammography that show clear benefits of the technique. We do not recommend thermography.

Ultrasound is a powerful tool when used in conjunction with mammography. It should not be used instead of mammography. Routine mammography is the only screening tool proven to reduce breast cancer mortality in average risk women.

Yes, women with breast implants have additional images taken — implant displaced images and implant included images. It is safe to get a mammogram with implants. It is difficult to image all of the breast tissue when implants are present.

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