Screening Mammography

What is a Screening Mammogram and how do I schedule?

A screening mammogram is a wellness exam that is covered annually by most insurance plans. It is recommended that women 40 years and older have a screening mammogram performed annually. If you are 40 years of age and are without symptoms, call your local Touchstone mammography site to schedule your screening mammogram. You DO NOT need an order from your primary care physician for a screening mammogram. Touchstone requires a treating physician to send your screening mammogram results to.

What does a Screening Mammogram look for?

Screening mammograms look for signs of cancer.

Screening mammograms are X-ray exams of the breasts that are used for women who have no breast symptoms or signs of breast cancer (such as a previous abnormal mammogram). The goal of a screening mammogram is to find breast cancer when it’s too small to be felt by a woman or her doctor. Finding breast cancers early (before they have grown and spread) greatly improves a woman’s chance for successful treatment.

A screening mammogram usually takes two X-ray pictures (views) of each breast. Some women, such as those with large breasts, may need to have more pictures to see as much breast tissue as possible. If performed annually as recommended, screening mammography is the key to detecting breast cancer early and saving lives. Women 40 years of age and older with no symptoms of breast disease, should schedule their screening mammogram appointments annually. A physician referral is not required for this exam however we must have the name of your physician to send your results. If you are experiencing a worrisome lump, changes in the breast skin, nipple discharge, or if you have a personal history of breast cancer, your physician should order a more comprehensive exam, called a diagnostic mammogram.

When more information is needed based off of the results of your screening mammogram OR if you are experiencing new problems since your last screening mammogram, your physician will order a diagnostic mammogram.

What does a Diagnostic Mammogram look for?

Diagnostic mammograms investigate possible problems

A woman with a breast problem (for instance, a lump or nipple discharge) or an abnormal area found in a screening mammogram typically gets a diagnostic mammogram. Sometimes diagnostic mammograms are done for screening in women without breast problems who were previously treated for breast cancer.

During a diagnostic mammogram, the images are reviewed by the radiologist while you are there so that more pictures can be taken if needed to look more closely at an area of concern. In some cases, special images known as spot views or magnification views are used to make a small area of concern easier to evaluate. Other types of imaging tests such as ultrasound may also be done in addition to the mammogram, depending on the type of problem and where it is in the breast.

A diagnostic mammogram is usually interpreted in one of three ways:

  • It may reveal that an area that looked abnormal on a screening mammogram is actually normal. When this happens, the woman goes back to routine yearly screening.
  • It could show that an area of concern probably is not cancer, but the radiologist may want to watch the area closely. When this happens it’s common to ask the woman to return to be re-checked, usually in four to six months.
  • The results could also suggest that a biopsy is needed to find out if the abnormal area is cancer. If your doctor recommends a biopsy, it does not mean that you have cancer.
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