While a screening mammogram is encouraged each year for women who do not have significant breast symptoms, your doctor may order a diagnostic mammogram if you are experiencing a worrisome lump, changes in the breast skin, pain, nipple discharge, or if you have a personal history of breast cancer. Diagnostic mammography may also be performed if your screening mammogram demonstrates a possible abnormality. Diagnostic imaging may include mammograms with extra compression or magnification, mammograms taken from different angles, or breast ultrasound.
- To help minimize discomfort during your exam, schedule your mammogram during the two weeks following your menstrual cycle (when breasts are less tender).
- Please bring a disc or films from any prior mammograms, if done at a facility other than Charlotte Radiology. If you would like Charlotte Radiology to request these on your behalf, please fill out our medical records release form. (NOTE: Please complete this form one month prior to your appointment, as it could take up to three weeks to obtain films from out of state.)
- Please bring any pertinent history to your appointment: prior surgeries, hormone use, family or personal history of breast cancer.
- On the day of the examination, do not wear talcum powder, deodorant, lotion or perfume under your arms or on your breasts. These substances can cause artifacts on your mammogram, making the images harder to interpret. Deodorant will be available after your exam.
From the patient's experience, a diagnostic mammogram isn't all that different from a screening mammogram. Most appointments take less than 30 minutes and require no real preparation. Your mammogram will be performed by a mammography-certified, female technologist. After you check in, you will be escorted to a private dressing room, where you will be asked to undress from the waist up. You will be given a gown that opens in the front. The technologist will ask you several questions, so she can better understand your history and/or any problems you may be having.
During your appointment, breast compression may cause some brief discomfort, but it shouldn't be painful. Breast compression helps facilitate better x-rays by flattening the breast so that the maximum amount of tissue can be examined. This allows for a lower X-ray dose, and holding the breast in place prevents blurring on the mammogram.
In certain cases, the radiologist may choose to perform a breast ultrasound in order to assess the characteristics of a lump. A breast ultrasound examination produces images of your breast using sound waves in a frequency range far above the range of human hearing. A hypoallergenic, water-soluble gel will then be applied to your breast to prevent air from getting between the ultrasound source and your skin. A small probe will be passed over the surface of your breast, producing a painless sensation of light pressure on your skin.
At the time of your visit, the radiologist will review your exam results with you and explain any further recommendations. Your primary care physician will receive the results of your exam within 24-48 hours of your visit.
Mammography is the best screening tool for breast cancer available today; however, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. In these cases, Charlotte Radiology has all of the tools available to provide an accurate diagnosis:
- Screening Breast Ultrasound
- Breast Needle Biopsy (Stereotactic, Ultrasound and MRI-guided)
- Lymph Node Biopsy
- Dedicated Breast MRI
- Cyst Aspiration
Strict guidelines ensure that mammogram equipment is safe and uses the lowest dose of radiation possible. Thanks to new software that lowers radiation dose, Charlotte Radiology's 3D technology no longer expose patients to additional radiation. Instead, our 3D mammograms utilize low-dose radiation that is comparable to a traditional mammogram.
If an ultrasound is performed at your appointment, please note that breast ultrasound utilizes sound waves instead of radiation.
Diagnostic mammograms do require a physician referral. Please contact your primary physician and request a referral to Charlotte Radiology (appointment line 704-367-2232 or 877-362-2232).