A mammogram is the first line of defense against breast cancer. You may be able to feel a breast lump that is about the size of a quarter, but a mammogram can often find a lump as small as a pencil eraser. A mammogram can also help your doctor evaluate your overall breast health.

Who should get a mammogram?

Some women may begin mammograms earlier than others, depending on your personal or family medical history. In general, you should talk with your doctor about developing a personalized mammography screening plan by the age of 40. Once you turn 50, all major medical societies recommend that you have a mammogram every year.

Types of mammograms

Screening mammogram – An X-ray of the breast used to look for breast disease in women who do not have any symptoms of breast problems. The breast is pressed between two plates to flatten and spread the tissue. An X-ray is taken of the breast from different angles. A radiologist views and interprets the result. Screening mammograms are suitable if you have no breast health symptoms. They generally take 10-15 minutes to perform and most women do not experience more than minor discomfort.

Three-dimensional (3D) mammograms are available at our clinic locations in Bloomington, Burnsville, Eagan, Edina, Fridley, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Maplewood, Princeton, and Wyoming.

Benefits of 3D mammograms include:

  • Improved rate of cancer detection
  • Decreases your chance of having to go back for more tests, which means fewer:
    • "False-positive" results (This means that there is an abnormal area but is isn't cancer.)
    • Invasive testing procedures, such as a biopsy or surgery
    • Can provide clearer images of the breast if you have dense breast tissue

3D mammography is an optional exam that anyone can have with a 2D mammogram. It doesn't replace or take the place of a 2D mammogram. 2D mammograms remain an effective screening test for all women.

Diagnostic mammogram – A diagnostic mammogram (may include 2D and/or 3D images) is used to diagnose breast disease in women and men who have breast symptoms or an abnormal result on a screening mammogram. A doctor's referral is required for this type of mammogram.

Contrast enhanced spectral mammography (CESM) - CESM is a special type of mammogram that is performed after the patient receives IV injection of contrast dye. A CESM shows the same information as a regular mammogram, but also shows areas of increased blood supply. Breast cancer typically has a greater blood supply than normal tissue, so it is highlighted on the images.

CESM is helpful when other mammogram and ultrasound results are inconclusive.

Tips for having a mammogram

(Source: American Cancer Society)

  • On the day of your exam, don't wear deodorant or antiperspirant. Some of these contain substances that can show up on the X-ray as white spots. If you're not returning home after your exam, you may want to bring along your deodorant or antiperspirant to put on after the exam.
  • You may find it easier to wear a skirt or pants, so that you'll only need to remove your top and bra for the mammogram.
  • If you are still menstruating, try to avoid the week just before your period. Schedule your mammogram when your breasts are not tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort.
  • Always describe any breast symptoms or problems to the breast technologist doing your mammogram. Also, describe any related medical history such as surgeries, hormone use, and any breast cancer that you or a family member has had.
  • Before having any type of imaging test, tell your breast imaging technologist if you are breast-feeding or if you think you might be pregnant.

Related Services & Specialties

Breast Imaging Appointments