Why are you having a diagnostic mammogram and how does it differ from a screening mammogram?
Approximately one in ten women requires a diagnostic mammogram after a screening mammogram. This test is ordered so the radiologist can look more closely at an area of interest. The mammography technologist will capture images of your breast from angles not typically used during a screening mammogram. Generally, women find that there is no additional discomfort caused by diagnostic mammogram compared to a screening mammogram.
Here are a few additional items you will want to know about diagnostic mammograms:
- They take longer than a screening mammogram. Plan on spending anywhere from two to four hours on the day of your exam.
- These studies take longer because the radiologist will want to interpret the images before you leave
- Sometimes the radiologist will wait to see your diagnostic mammogram before ordering an ultrasound. However we are usually able to accommodate both tests on the same day.
During your visit, a patient advocate will show you to the changing area and can assist you if necessary. For a mammogram, we ask that you change into a gown which opens in the front. For your convenience, we recommend that you wear a two-piece outfit on the day of your appointment. Our changing rooms offer secure lockers, but we encourage patients to leave valuables at home. Once changed, our patient advocate will guide you to the mammography sub-waiting area where you will find a selection of magazines and newspapers. If you prefer more privacy, please ask the patient advocate to allow you to wait in your dressing room.
The technologist is specially trained and certified by the American Registry of Radiological Technologists to take care of you during your mammogram scan. During your mammogram, the technologists will position you and place your breast on a platform and compress it with a paddle made of Plexiglas.
Breast compression is necessary in order to:
- Even out the breast thickness to improve tissue visualization
- Ensure that small abnormalities will not be obscured
- Reduce radiation exposure
- Hold the breast still to eliminate blurring caused by motion study
The technologist will gradually apply pressure until the breast is fully compressed. Inform the technologist if you experience sudden or sharp discomfort.
The technologist will step behind a lead-glass shield while capturing the images. Screening mammograms include a top-to-bottom view and a side view. The process is repeated for the opposite breast.