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UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital

Diagnostic Mammogram

UW Health's radiology services in Madison, Wisconsin offer a wide variety of breast imaging services, including diagnostic mammograms.
Who should get a diagnostic mammogram?
A diagnostic study is ordered for patients who have a personal history of breast cancer, or have a specific symptom or problem that could indicate breast cancer. Some of these symptoms may include lumps, discharge or breast pain. Please alert your health care provider if you have these symptoms to ensure that you are scheduled for a diagnostic study.
About 10 percent of screening patients return for further evaluation of calcifications (calcium deposits), masses (abnormal growths of tissue) and asymmetries (abnormal patterns of tissue).
Types of Calcifications
There are two types of calcifications:
  • Microcalcifications: tiny specks of calcium that may appear alone or in clusters. An area of microcalcification does not always mean that cancer is present. In fact, the majority of microcalcifications are benign.
  • Macrocalcifications: indicate a benign condition and do not require a biopsy.

In some cases, the radiologist will determine that the calcifications have a benign type of appearance, but should be followed closely with another mammogram in six months to ensure that they do not change. In other cases, the calcifications may have an uncertain or suspicious appearance, and a biopsy will be ordered.


Mass Evaluation


Masses are evaluated by obtaining additional specialized mammography pictures, by using ultrasound of the breast, or with an MRI scan of the breast. Masses and asymmetries in the breast can be cancerous or noncancerous. Noncancerous masses can be due to a fluid-filled cyst or tissue mass, such as a fibroadenoma. After masses have been fully evaluated, some can be carefully monitored with a repeat mammogram or breast ultrasound in 6 months, while others may require a biopsy.


Indications for Diagnostic (problem-solving) Mammography:

  • Palpable lump or thickening of breast tissue
  • Spontaneous nipple discharge, especially if it is from a single duct and bloody or clear
  • Focal (localized) breast pain or tenderness
  • Skin changes such as thickening, puckering or retraction
  • Abnormal screening mammogram (referred to as a "call-back" for follow-up)
  • Short interval follow up of a probably benign finding
  • Initial six-month follow up after breast core biopsy or surgical biopsy
  • Personal history of breast cancer undergoing current treatment
  • Axillary adenopathy
  • Metastatic carcinoma of unknown primary site