What You Need to Know About Mammography
A mammogram is a picture of the breast tissue, made by using special low dose x-ray equipment. UW Health uses only digital equipment for performing mammograms. We now offer digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) thin-slice mammograms, which are described below.
Mammograms are reviewed by radiologists (physicians trained in evaluating imaging tests) who meet specific requirements for looking at these tests.
This test is used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms. If you have a breast concern, please talk to your health care provider first so a diagnostic mammogram or additional imaging such as an ultrasound can be done.
Screening typically involves two mammogram pictures of each breast. If a potential abnormality is found on your screening mammogram, you will be contacted to return for diagnostic mammogram pictures and sometimes breast imaging, such as an ultrasound, to better assess the area. This does not mean there is definitely a problem, and often the cause is not cancer, but may be overlapping breast tissue. These requests are not uncommon, even for women who have healthy breasts. If you are requested to have diagnostic images following a screening mammogram, a UW Health staff member will contact you to schedule the appropriate appointments.
Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT)
We offer a new type of screening mammogram called Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT). DBT takes essentially the same amount time and radiation as a standard digital mammogram. However, it creates thin-slice pictures of the breast that decrease tissue overlap and improve the performance of mammograms. Studies have found that DBT decreases the need for follow-up tests for "false positives" and increases the ability to find cancers. DBT decreases but does not eliminate the need for follow-up tests, so after DBT you may still be asked to return for additional tests. All women are eligible to have a screening DBT mammogram, but can instead choose to have a standard digital mammogram.
Insurance Coverage and Cost for DBT
Since Jan. 1, 2015, Medicare has provided coverage for DBT screening mammograms. Unity Health Plans cover DBT as do many other insurers. Patients should check with their insurance regarding coverage to understand their responsibility for the DBT portion of the bill which may include applied deductible or coinsurance based on the benefit plan. DBT is billed to insurance using CPT 77063, along with a standard digital screening mammogram charge.
To inquire regarding the fee for DBT at UW Health, please call PriceLine at (608) 263-1507. The fee for DBT is in addition to the fee for a standard digital screening mammogram. If you have further questions regarding DBT, please contact our nurses or technologists at one of the numbers listed below.
What are the benefits and limitations of screening mammography?
The benefit of screening mammograms is that they can find breast cancers early, when they are the most treatable. Having screening mammograms has been shown to decrease the chances of dying from breast cancer.
Mammograms are important, but are not perfect. There is the chance that from screening mammography you will be asked to return for further evaluation for an area that is then shown to not be cancer. This is a so-called "false positive." It occurs in less than 10% of women who are screened, and in most cases can be resolved with just additional mammogram pictures and sometimes breast ultrasound. In addition, mammograms find most but not all breast cancers. The likelihood of a so-called "false negative" is impacted by several factors, including the amount of fibroglandular or "dense" breast tissue on mammograms.
What are the UW Health recommendations for having screening mammography for women at average risk?
All of the major national guidelines recognize that the most breast cancer deaths are prevented with annual mammography beginning at age 40. However, in recognition that patients may have different preferences regarding screening mammography, UW Health has established the following minimum guidelines for women at average risk:
- We recommend women between 40 and 49 who are at average risk have a baseline screening mammogram, preferably at age 40.
- We recommend women aged 50 to 74 who are at average risk have a screening mammogram every one to two years.
- We also recommend women 40 to 49 and age 75 to 85 who are at average risk have a screening mammogram up to every one to two years based on a discussion with their health care provider about the risks and benefits of mammography.
Diagnostic mammography involves one or more special mammogram pictures from different angles. These allow detailed evaluation of areas of possible clinical or imaging concern.
This test is used to check for breast cancer when there is a lump or other sign or symptom in the breast. In this case your provider will evaluate your breast issue and if appropriate will order a diagnostic mammogram. You may also request an appointment with a provider at the UW Breast Center who can assess your concern and if appropriate will order a diagnostic mammogram.
Diagnostic mammography is also used to further evaluate potential abnormalities found on screening mammograms. If you are requested to have diagnostic images following a screening mammogram, a UW Health staff member will contact you to schedule the appropriate appointments. This does not mean there is definitely a problem, most often the cause is not cancer and may be overlapping breast tissue.
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 areas or on your breasts. Some of these products might create spots that look like abnormalities 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.
Your Mammogram Results
A radiologist who has specialty training in mammography will read your screening 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.
Scheduling Your Screening Mammogram
There are two ways to schedule screening mammograms:
- UW Health MyChart users can schedule them online. Learn more about UW Health MyChart. We are working to allow MyChart users to select DBT along with their mammogram. Until this is available in MyChart, please call one of the numbers below to schedule your mammogram and request to be scheduled for a screening mammogram with digital breast tomosynthesis or DBT.
- Or, contact one of the following UW Health locations 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 the Breast Center at University Hospital at (608) 266-6400 or the 1 S. Park Clinic at (608) 287-2050.
UW Health Mammogram Locations
- University Hospital
UW Health Breast Center
600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792
- UW Health 1 S. Park Clinic
UW Health Breast Center
1 S. Park Street, Madison, WI 53715
- UW Health DeForest-Windsor Clinic
4131 Meridian Drive, Windsor, WI 53598
- UW Health East Clinic
5249 E. Terrace Drive, Madison, WI 53718
- UW Health Odana Atrium Clinic
5618 Odana Road, Madison, WI 53719
- UW Health Union Corners Clinic
2402 Winnebago St., Madison, WI 53704
- UW Health West Clinic
451 Junction Road, Madison, WI 53717
- UW Health Yahara Clinic
1050 East Broadway, Monona, WI 53716
If you have any questions, call the UW Health Breast Center at University Hospital at (608) 266-6400 or the 1 S. Park Clinic at (608) 287-2050.