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What You Need To Know About Mammography

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast using special X-ray equipment that shows the detail of the breast tissue. UW Health uses only digital equipment for mammograms. By carefully comparing these breast pictures to your prior mammograms, a radiologist (a physician specially trained to read X-rays) can identify abnormalities.
 
Although mammography uses radiation to create these images, the risk of a future problem from radiation is very small compared to the benefit of finding an early cancer. A mammogram can reveal abnormalities before they can be found by any other method.
 
Before and During Your Mammogram
 
On the day of your mammogram, don’t wear deodorant, perfume, powders, ointment, or glitter lotion of any sort in your underarm area or on your breasts. Some of these products might create spots that look like an abnormality on the images.
 
Your mammogram appointment will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes. A specially trained radiology technologist will take the pictures. She will place each breast between two smooth flat plates and apply gentle but firm compression. For some patients, the compression may be slightly uncomfortable but it is necessary to get the highest quality pictures.
 
Who Should Have a Mammogram?
 
Screening mammography is done on women without breast complaints. If you have a breast concern, please talk to your health care provider first so a diagnostic mammographic evaluation or additional imaging such as an ultrasound can be done.
 
UW Health recommends a screening mammogram every one to two years for women aged 50 to 74 who are at average risk. Women between 40 and 49 with average risk factors should have a baseline screening mammogram, preferably at age 40.
 
We recommend screening mammograms for average risk women 40 to 49 and age 75 to 85 every one to two years based on a discussion with their health care provider about the risks and benefits of mammography.
 
Your Mammogram Results
 
A radiologist who has specialty training in mammography will read your mammogram. In general, the images will be read within a few days and a report will be sent to your health care provider. You will also receive a letter in the mail to inform you of the results.
 
For Your Information
 
Once your films have been read, we might recommend additional pictures or an ultrasound for a complete interpretation. This does not mean there is a problem, sometimes it just indicates there is overlapping breast tissue and a part of the breast needs to be seen in greater detail. These requests are common, even for women who have healthy breasts.
 
Additional pictures are taken at different angles or slightly different positions. Sometimes, breast ultrasound (the use of sound waves to create a picture) is recommended for a specific area of the breast. These extra studies are referred to as "diagnostic" films. They will be checked with the radiologist the day of your appointment. A UW Health staff member will contact you to schedule this appointment.
 
Complete Breast Cancer Screening
 
Routine breast self-exams help you recognize changes in your breasts and identify any differences or new abnormalities. We recommend a yearly physical breast examination by a health care provider as part of your complete breast health program.
 
We also recommend having your physical examination prior to a mammogram to ensure there are no abnormalities that need to be addressed by your mammogram. If you or your provider are concerned about an abnormality, you might require a diagnostic mammography evaluation and/or an ultrasound instead of a screening mammogram.
 

Scheduling Your Mammogram

 
There are two ways to schedule mammograms:

UW Health MyChart users can schedule them online. Learn more about UW Health MyChart
 
Otherwise, please contact one of the following UW Health facilities to schedule a mammography. Please check with your insurance carrier to determine which clinic sites are covered by your insurance plan. If you have questions, please call Breast Care Services at UW Hospital and Clinics at (608) 266-6400 or the 1 S. Park Clinic at (608) 287-2050.