A mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breast. It is used to detect and diagnose breast disease in women who either have breast abnormalities such as a lump, pain, or nipple discharge, as well as for women who have no breast complaints. There are two types of mammograms, the screening mammogram and the diagnostic mammogram.

A screening mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer. The exam usually involves two x-rays of each breast from different angles. A screening mammogram can detect a tumor that cannot be felt by self examination.

A diagnostic mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to diagnose unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple thickening or discharge, or change in breast size or shape. A diagnostic mammogram is also used to evaluate abnormalities detected on a screening mammogram. It is an excellent medical tool and is appropriate in the work-up of breast changes, regardless of a woman's age.

Mammography has been a significant tool in fighting breast cancer for over 30 years. In the past 15 years, major technical advancements have greatly improved the detection rate of abnormalities. The specialized equipment used today for breast imaging produces studies that are high in quality but low in radiation dose. Radiation risks are considered to be negligible.

Allison Women's Imaging (AWI) provides screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound, stereotactic biopsies, and pre-operative needle localizations.

Allison Women's Imaging is proud to offer another technological advancement with Computer Assisted Detection (CAD). CAD is a computer program that digitizes mammography images and analyzes them for areas in the breast that may contain features associated with cancer. This draws the attention of the radiologist to these areas so the radiologist may take a closer look at the mammogram images and decide if more detailed images may be required. CAD acts as a quick and accurate second look at the mammogram images and Allison Women's Imaging is proud to provide this technology to our patients.

Why should I have a mammogram?

The importance of mammograms has recently been reaffirmed, by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute, as an important tool in the early detection of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women and the second leading cause of cancer death (exceeded by lung cancer in 1985). Breast cancer is three times more common than all gynecologic malignancies combined. The incidence of breast cancer has steadily increased from a rate of 1 in 20 in 1960, to 1 in 8 women today. To learn more about breast cancer and its risk factors, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

When should I begin scheduling mammograms?

Current guidelines recommend that a baseline, or first, mammogram be scheduled at the age of 35-40. Thereafter, annual mammograms are recommended beginning at the age of 40. Women with a family history of breast cancer should discuss mammography with their physician who may advise earlier mammograms.

What can I expect during the exam?

A highly trained mammography technologist will explain the exam and answer any questions you may have prior to the procedure. The technologist will position and apply compression to the breast with a plastic paddle, while low dose x-rays are taken. Compression is required to obtain optimal images and will be slightly uncomfortable. This is necessary to ensure an accurate exam and will last only a few seconds.

Will I be exposed to radiation?

While mammography is considered a safe examination, you will be exposed to a low dose of radiation, the equivalent of six months of natural background exposure.

How long will the exam take?

Most mammograms are completed in approximately 20-30 minutes.

How do I prepare for the exam?

On the day of the exam, please do not use any lotions, creams, perfumes, powders, or deodorant on or around your breast area, as these can appear as calcium spots on the image. No other preparation is required.

How will I know the results?

Following your exam, a radiologist specializing in mammography will analyze and interpret the images from your exam and prepare a full report. This report will be sent directly to your physician who will share the results with you. In addition, Allison Women's Imaging will send you a letter summarizing the results of your exam. To request a copy of the report, you may contact your physician's office or Midland Memorial Hospital's Medical Records Department at (432) 221-1600.

Understanding your mammography report

Each mammogram performed will receive a category as determined by the radiologist interpreting the images. For a list of categories published by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and their detailed description, click here.

How do I schedule an appointment?

Your physician's office will typically schedule your appointment. You may also schedule your own appointment by calling Allison Women's Imaging at (432) 682-9729. You will receive annual correspondence reminding you to schedule your mammogram.

What do I need to bring with me the day of the exam?

You will need to bring the order your physician gave you, a form of personal identification, and any insurance or Medicare information. If you are taking any medications, please print and complete the second page of the Pocket Medication Card and bring the list with you. Please do not bring the medications. This will help expedite your visit and reduce the possibility of losing any of your medications.