A mammogram is an x-ray imaging procedure specifically performed on breast tissue. It detects numerous anomalies, including lesions, cysts, benign tumors, and cancer. Modern 3D mammography—digital breast tomosynthesis—can detect tissue abnormalities before they become symptomatic or identifiable by touch.

Screening mammograms are performed as a part of a routine breast screening. They are also used to identify lumps or other abnormalities discovered during a physical examination or another type of imaging procedure.

A diagnostic mammogram is performed when a lump or other symptom is present.

Mammograms are instrumental for breast health. Because they support early detection, they allow patients and clinicians to initiate treatment quickly before complications arise. Immediate action significantly increases the chances of full recovery.


Why would I need a diagnostic mammogram?

Mammograms are performed for either screening or diagnostic purposes.

While regular or screening mammograms are generally recommended for women over 40 as part of routine breast cancer screening, a diagnostic mammogram is performed when an abnormality is suspected.

Diagnostic mammograms are also performed when breast changes occur. These changes might include an alteration in the appearance of breast skin, pain in one or both breasts, thickening of the nipples, or discharge from the nipples.

Your physician will also recommend a diagnostic mammogram if a screening mammogram finds a suspicious lump or other abnormality.


What does a diagnostic mammogram do?

Like a screening mammogram, a diagnostic mammogram is an X-ray image of the internal structure of the breasts. The patient stands at a digital breast tomosynthesis unit, outfitted with special plates that compress the breasts to maximize the amount of breast tissue the device can analyze. Each breast is compressed for several seconds for the clearest possible image. While two images of each breast are generally taken on average during a screening mammogram, more images may be needed to assess the breast during a diagnostic examination.

Once the mammogram is completed, the radiologist will analyze the results using computer-aided detection (CAD) tools that isolate any abnormalities captured in the images.

At Valley Radiology, we use next-generation 3D mammography technology capable of identifying a greater proportion of cancers and other anomalies than standard 2D mammograms.


How do I prepare for a mammogram?

It is best to schedule a mammogram when you aren’t menstruating to avoid additional discomfort if you typically experience breast tenderness during your period. You might also want to bring previous mammogram images so your radiologist can compare your current results with previous ones.

Finally, avoid wearing deodorants, powders, sunscreens, or other cosmetic products on your body or breasts on the day of your mammogram. Many such products contain minerals or particulates that can be captured during imaging, making readings difficult.


How long do mammograms take?

Mammograms typically take between 15 and 30 minutes to complete. Your clinician will let you know when to expect your results.


Do mammograms have any risks?

Mammography exposes patients to low doses of radiation. However, the risk of once-yearly exposure to minor amounts of radiation is extremely low compared to the risk of allowing cancer to go undetected.

The compassionate team at Valley Radiology offers the latest imaging technology for cancer screenings and other potentially serious medical conditions. To schedule your annual screening mammogram, please call Angier Imaging Center (919) 331-2001 or Valley Regional Imaging (910) 323-2209 or request to Schedule Your Mammogram online today!

A doctor’s referral is not required for an annual screening mammogram, but diagnostic mammograms do require a doctor’s referral.