3D Mammography

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Mammograms for breast cancer

Mammograms are a critical cornerstone in the realm of women’s health care, playing a pivotal role in early breast cancer detection. These specialized X-ray screenings have been instrumental in improving breast cancer survival rates and reducing mortality. According to the American Cancer Society, regular mammograms can detect up to 90% of breast cancers in their earliest stages when treatment is most effective.

The importance of regular mammograms

  • Mammograms are highly effective at detecting breast cancer in its early stages, often before symptoms are noticeable. This early detection increases the chances of successful treatment and better outcomes.
  • Regular mammograms have the potential to save lives. By identifying cancer at an early, more treatable stage, women can access timely medical interventions that can potentially prevent the spread of cancer.
  • Studies have shown that routine mammography screenings can lead to a reduction in breast cancer mortality rates. Early detection through mammograms can significantly lower the risk of death from breast cancer.
  • Detecting breast cancer early provides patients with a wider range of treatment options. It allows for less aggressive treatments, such as lumpectomy instead of mastectomy, and increases the chances of breast-conserving surgeries.
  • Early detection and treatment can help preserve a woman’s breast, reducing the physical and emotional impact of more extensive surgeries. This contributes to a better quality of life post-treatment.
  • Mammograms can be tailored to individual risk factors, such as family history or genetic predisposition. This allows for personalized screening plans, ensuring that women at higher risk receive more frequent and targeted screenings.
  • Widespread mammogram screening programs have the potential to have a positive impact on public health. They can contribute to reducing the overall burden of breast cancer in society.

Process of getting a mammogram

Scheduling an appointment

Scheduling an appointment

The process typically begins by scheduling an appointment with a health care physician or a certified mammography facility. Some facilities also offer walk-in appointments.

Preparing for the mammogram

Preparing for the mammogram

On the day of the appointment, it’s advisable to wear a two-piece outfit, as you will need to undress from the waist up for the procedure. Avoid using deodorants, powders, lotions, or perfumes on your chest area as they can interfere with the mammogram results.

Paperwork and medical history

Paperwork and medical history

Upon arrival at the facility, you will need to complete registration paperwork, including providing your medical history and insurance information. You may have a brief discussion with the technologist or health care physician about your medical history, including any prior breast surgeries or breast-related concerns.

Privacy and comfort

Privacy and comfort

You will be provided with a gown to change into. The facility will prioritize your privacy and comfort during the procedure. The technologist will position you in front of the mammography machine. You will be asked to stand in front of the machine, and each breast will be imaged separately.

Image capture

Image capture

The X-ray machine will capture images of your breast from different angles. For each view, you will need to hold your breath briefly to reduce motion blur in the images. The technologist may need to reposition your breast to capture specific views.

Results and follow-up

Results and follow-up

After the images are captured, you may be asked to wait briefly while the technologist reviews the images to ensure they are clear and complete. The mammogram results are usually sent to your health care physician, who will discuss them with you.

Tips to prepare for a mammogram

  • Schedule wisely: Choose a time for your mammogram when your breasts are less likely to be tender. The week after your period is often a good choice for premenopausal women.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: Wear a two-piece outfit with a top that can be easily removed. This will make undressing for the mammogram and dressing afterward more convenient.
  • Avoid certain products: On the day of your mammogram, refrain from using deodorants, antiperspirants, lotions, powders, or perfumes on your chest area. These products can interfere with the mammogram images.
  • Bring relevant information: If you have had prior mammograms or breast-related procedures at different facilities, bring any relevant images and reports with you to the appointment. This can help the radiologist compare current and previous images for a more accurate assessment.
  • Communicate any concerns: If you have concerns about the mammogram procedure or any discomfort you’ve experienced during previous screenings, discuss them with the technologist or your health care physician before the exam. They can provide guidance and address your concerns.
  • Relaxation techniques: To minimize anxiety and discomfort during the procedure, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. Some women find it helpful to take a few slow, deep breaths before each compression.
  • Pain management: If you experience discomfort or tenderness during mammograms, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen before the appointment. Consult with your health care physician about the appropriate dosage.

How often should I get a mammogram?

The recommended frequency for mammograms can vary based on individual factors such as age, family history, and risk factors. Here are general guidelines for mammogram screening frequency:

  • Age 40 to 49: Women in their 40s should begin discussing mammogram screenings with their health care physician. Some organizations recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40, while others suggest beginning at age 45 or 50. The decision should be based on individual risk factors and preferences.
  • Age 50 and over: For women aged 50 and older, annual mammograms are generally recommended. Regular screening becomes increasingly important as the risk of breast cancer increases with age.
  • High-risk individuals: Women with a family history of breast cancer or other significant risk factors may need to start mammograms at an earlier age and undergo more frequent screenings. High-risk individuals should consult with their health care physician or a genetic counselor to determine the appropriate screening schedule.
  • Personalized screening plans: Health care providers often assess an individual’s risk profile and create personalized screening plans. These plans take into account factors like family history, genetic mutations (e.g., BRCA1 or BRCA2), previous breast cancer diagnoses, and breast density.
  • Continued screening: Regular mammogram screenings should continue as long as a woman is in good health and has a life expectancy of at least 10 years. This may mean continuing screenings into older age, as long as it is medically appropriate.

Frequently asked mammography questions

Is a mammogram painful?

Mammograms can be uncomfortable for some women due to breast compression, but the discomfort is usually brief and tolerable. Communicate any concerns with the technologist, who can adjust the compression level.

How long does a mammogram take?

The mammogram procedure typically takes about 20-30 minutes, including preparation and imaging. Additional time may be needed if further tests are recommended.

Can I have a mammogram if I have breast implants?

Yes, mammograms can be performed on individuals with breast implants. It’s important to inform the technologist about the implants to ensure proper positioning and imaging.

What is 3D mammography?

CHI St. Joseph’s Health is proud to provide 3D mammography which is proven to find cancers (specifically early stage cancers) at a higher rate. For patients who are considered high risk or have a family history of breast cancer, 3D mammography is the preferred method of imaging. . 3D Mammography, or Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, allows doctors to examine breast tissue one layer at a time. It generates a stack of 1 mm slice images (“layers”) of breast tissue. Instead of viewing the complexities of your breast tissue in one flat image, the radiologist can examine the tissue one layer at a time. Fine details are more clearly visible, no longer hidden by overlapping tissue.

Who is eligible for 3D mammography?

All women can benefit from 3D Mammography, especially:

  • Women having a baseline, first-time mammogram
  • Women with dense breast tissue
  • Women with a personal history of cancer

The benefits of 3D mammography

3D Mammography (in combination with traditional digital mammography) has the potential to:

  • Help reduce false positive rates by 15%
  • Decrease in call backs which means less worry, anxiety and cost for patients
  • Improve the selection of patients for biopsy
  • Increase cancer detection rates, especially in patients with dense breasts
  • Detects up to 40% more invasive cancers

What to expect during your exam

The 3D mammography screening experience is similar to that of a traditional digital mammogram. The 3D screening images are taken at the same time as your traditional, digital screening. The technologist will position you, compress your breasts under a paddle, and take images from different angles. The X-ray arm will move in an arc, taking multiple low-dose breast images in just seconds. The length of the exam is similar to that of a routine traditional digital mammogram. The technologist sends your breast images electronically to the radiologist, who studies them and reports results to either your physician or directly to you.

No physician order needed, schedule your mammogram directly with CHI St. Joseph’s Health by calling 218-616-3153.

How to Schedule:

Call CHI St. Joseph’s Health at (218) 616-3153 to schedule your appointment. No referral is needed.

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