A Look At Diagnostic Mammograms 

A mammogram, an x-ray imaging procedure specifically targeting breast tissue, identifies various anomalies like lesions, cysts, tumors, and cancer. Advanced 3D mammography, or digital breast tomosynthesis, detects tissue irregularities before symptoms arise or are palpable.

Screening mammograms are part of routine breast checks, aiding in detecting lumps or abnormalities found during physical exams or other imaging procedures.

Diagnostic mammograms come into play when symptoms like lumps are present.

These screenings are pivotal for breast health, enabling early detection and prompt treatment initiation, significantly boosting chances of full recovery.

If you or a loved one were referred to us for a diagnostic mammogram, we are here to shed some light on this advanced imaging option to help you better understand what’s in store ahead of your procedure. 


What is a Diagnostic Mammogram?

A diagnostic mammogram is a specialized breast imaging procedure used to investigate abnormalities detected during routine screening mammograms or in cases where symptoms such as breast lumps or changes are present. 

Diagnostic mammograms are essential for providing detailed information to aid in the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer or other breast conditions.

They play a crucial role in guiding further diagnostic evaluation, such as additional imaging tests or biopsy procedures, and determining the most appropriate course of treatment or management for the patient.


Why Would I Need a Diagnostic Mammogram With Ultrasound?

You may need a diagnostic mammogram with ultrasound for several reasons, including:

  • Further Evaluation of Abnormalities:  If an abnormality is detected on a screening mammogram or if you or your healthcare provider notice a breast lump or other symptom, a diagnostic mammogram with ultrasound can provide additional information to evaluate the abnormality further.
  • Characterization of Abnormalities: Ultrasound can help characterize breast abnormalities detected on mammograms, such as determining whether a lump is solid or fluid-filled (cystic) and whether it is likely benign or requires further evaluation.
  • Younger Women or Dense Breast Tissue: In younger women or those with dense breast tissue, mammograms alone may not provide clear images due to the density of the breast tissue. In such cases, adding ultrasound to the diagnostic evaluation can improve the detection of abnormalities.
  • Guidance for Biopsy Procedures: Ultrasound can guide biopsy procedures, specifically targeting suspicious areas within the breast tissue for tissue sampling.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation: Combining mammography with ultrasound provides a more thorough evaluation of the breast tissue, allowing for a more accurate assessment of breast health and any abnormalities.

What Does Diagnostic Mammography Detect?

Diagnostic mammography is a specialized imaging procedure to detect various abnormalities in breast tissue. It can detect:

  • Breast Cancer: One of the primary purposes of diagnostic mammography is to detect breast cancer. It can identify suspicious masses, areas of abnormal density, or microcalcifications that may indicate the presence of cancerous cells.
  • Benign Breast Conditions: Diagnostic mammography can detect benign (non-cancerous) breast conditions, such as cysts, fibroadenomas, and calcifications. While these conditions are not cancerous, they may require further evaluation or monitoring.
  • Changes in Breast Tissue: Diagnostic mammography can identify changes in breast tissue architecture, density, or symmetry that may indicate abnormalities or changes over time.
  • Implant Evaluation: For women with breast implants, diagnostic mammography can detect abnormalities around the implants, such as implant rupture, displacement, or the presence of masses.
  • Evaluation of Breast Symptoms: Diagnostic mammography is used to evaluate symptoms such as lumps, pain, nipple discharge, or changes in breast size or shape.

Overall, diagnostic mammography plays a crucial role in the early detection and diagnosis of breast abnormalities, including breast cancer. It allows for the identification of both cancerous and non-cancerous conditions, guiding further evaluation and treatment decisions to ensure optimal breast health.


Screening vs. Diagnostic Mammogram

Screening mammograms are routine breast imaging tests performed in asymptomatic individuals to detect breast cancer early, often before symptoms arise. They involve two views of each breast and are recommended as part of routine breast cancer screening. 

In contrast, diagnostic mammograms are specialized procedures conducted when patients present with specific breast symptoms or abnormalities detected during screening. Unlike screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms are tailored to the individual's needs and may involve additional imaging techniques to evaluate and diagnose breast abnormalities. 

Understanding the difference between a screening and a diagnostic mammogram is crucial for the timely diagnosis and treatment of breast abnormalities.


The Diagnostic Mammogram Procedure: What to Expect 

The diagnostic mammogram procedure is a comprehensive evaluation used to investigate specific breast concerns or abnormalities detected during routine screening or reported by the patient. 

Before the procedure, you may be asked to refrain from using deodorant, perfume, or lotion on your chest and underarms to avoid interfering with the imaging process. 

The radiology technologist will review your medical history and any breast symptoms you may have before positioning your breast on a flat surface and compressing it with a paddle to spread out the breast tissue. 

Multiple images will be taken from different angles to ensure a thorough evaluation, with compression released immediately after each image. The obtained images will be reviewed by a radiologist, who will assess the breast tissue for any abnormalities, such as masses, calcifications, or architectural distortions. 

Depending on the findings, further imaging tests or biopsy procedures may be recommended for additional evaluation. Your results will typically be available within a few days, and if further evaluation is needed, your healthcare provider will discuss the next steps with you. 


How Long Do Diagnostic Mammograms Take?

The duration of a diagnostic mammogram can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the imaging needed and whether additional views or procedures are required. 

Generally, a diagnostic mammogram takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete. This includes the time for preparation, positioning, imaging acquisition, and assessment by the radiologist. 

However, the appointment may take longer if additional imaging or procedures are necessary. 

It is essential to allocate enough time for the appointment and follow any preparation instructions provided by the healthcare provider or imaging center.


Get Your Diagnostic Mammogram in North Carolina 

Your health matters at Valley Radiology in Fayetteville and Angier, NC. We offer advanced imaging, including diagnostic mammograms. 

If you need detailed breast imaging, our team will guide you through the process.

Please note that a doctor’s referral is required for diagnostic mammograms. If you believe you’re a candidate for one, we encourage you to contact your provider directly to determine next steps.

If you are referred for a mammogram, expect us to schedule your appointment promptly. If you have any other inquiries, feel free to contact us directly.