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UT Southwestern Medical Center’s mammography services save lives, employing the latest technology to detect breast cancer as early as possible.
Our radiology team performs more than 800,000 inpatient and outpatient exams every year. We specialize in advanced technologies and the latest clinical innovations in today’s changing field of medical imaging.
Accurate Diagnosis for Successful Treatment
Mammography is our most powerful breast cancer detection tool. It uses X-rays to create an image of breast tissue that can reveal abnormalities such as tumors or cysts long before a patient or doctor can feel them.
With digital mammography, the images are recorded directly into a computer. The image can then be viewed on a computer screen, and specific areas can be enlarged or highlighted. If there is a suspicious area, the radiologist can use the computer to take a closer look.
UT Southwestern certified mammographers and radiologists are highly trained and experienced in conducting and evaluating mammograms. We offer the latest imaging tools and the full complement of diagnostic techniques for identifying breast cancers.
Types of Mammograms
The two types of mammograms are:
- Screening mammograms, for women without symptoms; these consist of two views of each breast. For some women, more than two pictures might be needed to include as much tissue as possible.
- Diagnostic mammograms, for women with symptoms or suspicious findings on a screening exam; these are performed under the direction of a breast-imaging radiologist and can involve specialized views of the breast tissue.
A breast ultrasound is also used as a diagnostic tool to assist in characterizing abnormalities identified on a mammogram or from palpable lumps. Breast MRI is used to further evaluate abnormalities identified by a mammogram and/or sonogram and to screen people who are at higher risk for breast cancer or who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Mammogram: What to Expect
Patients can schedule a screening mammogram without a referral from a physician if they are over age 40. A physician’s referral is required to schedule a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
Patients who have had previous mammograms or sonograms at another clinic should bring the films and written reports to the appointment if they haven’t been sent to our office. Comparison with previous images allows for a more thorough evaluation.
For comfort and privacy, it is recommended that patients wear a comfortable two-piece outfit on the day of the appointment because they will be asked to undress from the waist up. It is recommended that the patient not wear deodorants, powders, or creams on the day of the appointment because some contain tiny metal particles (aluminum salts, etc.) that might be visible on the mammogram image. These artifacts could obstruct the view of the breast tissue.
When the patient first arrives at the University Hospital Center for Breast Care, she or he will check in and complete some paperwork before being escorted to a dressing room to change into a front-opening smock.
Most mammograms take only a few minutes to complete. Our certified mammographer will position the patient in front of a special X-ray machine specifically for mammograms. The patient’s breast will be placed between two plastic plates, which will press the breast tissue to flatten it for the clearest X-ray image. The patient might be uncomfortable for a few seconds, but this is normal and necessary to get the best view of the breast tissue. Because of this discomfort, it’s a good idea for women to avoid scheduling a mammogram just prior to the patient’s menstrual period.
The mammographer will view the images on a computer screen in the room before presenting them to a radiologist for interpretation.
Every person’s breast tissue will have a unique appearance on a mammogram. If this is the patient’s first mammogram or previous studies are not available to reference, the radiologist can request additional images for further evaluation. This is very common, so patients should not be alarmed if it occurs.
A radiologist will review all the images and send a report to both the patient and the referring doctor, who will discuss the results with the patient. For a screening mammogram, results are mailed within three to five business days. For a diagnostic mammogram, a radiologist will discuss results with the patient and provide a written overview for reference immediately following the appointment, before the patient leaves the clinic.
Risks of Mammograms
If patients have questions about a health condition that could affect the exam, or if they think they might be pregnant, please ask to speak to a radiology technologist or certified mammographer.
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