A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that is used to detect and evaluate breast changes. Mammograms, in conjunction with breast examinations by a health professional and monthly breast self-exams, are the best means of detecting breast disease at its earliest stages.
All of our mammography centers are accredited by the American College of Radiology and South Shore Hospital’s breast imaging program is designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. We also offer 3D mammography at the Outpatient Imaging & Women's Specialty Center and South Shore Medical Center - Norwell. 3D mammography, or tomosynthesis, more easily detects cancerous tissue in dense breast tissue and can reduce the need for additional additional imaging. Learn more about the benefits here on our blog.
Our exams are performed exclusively by female mammographers and all mammograms are read by board-certified radiologists. We also offer advanced breast imaging and testing—including breast MRI and breast biopsy—for further diagnosis and treatment planning. Our breast Imaging Department also includes a Breast Imaging Navigator who helps ensure all patients receive timely diagnosis, treatment, and support. The Navigator also keeps in close contact with our patient’s primary care physician so they know what types of tests and follow-up care is recommended.
Our Health System also includes the Breast Care Center, offered in affiliation with Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The Center provides timely and supportive care for benign and malignant diseases of the breast. The Breast Care Center has received accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, which means you can expect the highest standards of care available including access to local, regional and national clinical trials.
A screening mammogram is a routine radiologic examination of both breasts. This exam is performed on women who have:
- No symptoms of breast disease or biopsy-proven breast disease
- No present or recurrent breast-related problems
- High-risk or low-risk for breast cancer
A diagnostic mammogram is similar to a screening mammogram but focuses on the signs and symptoms of breast disease. These include: focal pain—or pain in one specific spot on the breast, nipple discharge, or masses/lumps.
If you need a diagnostic mammogram as a result of a finding on your screening mammogram, we will call you within a few days of your screening mammogram to schedule an appointment quickly. Since most often the findings are benign, this phone call should not be a reason for concern.
On the day of your exam, you will meet with one of our certified mammogram technologists.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Schedule your mammogram one week after your menstrual period begins
- If you had your last mammogram at a different facility, bring the studies with you
- Wear two-piece clothing on exam day
- Don’t wear deodorant, lotions, perfume or powder to the exam
Breast ultrasound is frequently used to evaluate breast abnormalities that have been identified with mammography or during a clinical breast exam. Ultrasound is often used to determine if a suspicious area is a lymph node, cyst (non-cancerous, fluid-filled pocked), or solid tissue that may require a biopsy to determine if it is cancerous.
An ultrasound exam typically lasts 20-30 minutes. Breast ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to image the breast. A gel is used to lubricate the area and help with the transmission of sound waves. An ultrasound does not use any radiation and is usually pain-free.
A breast MRI is a non-invasive procedure that results in a three-dimensional view of the inside of the breast. A breast MRI device uses a computer, radio waves, and strong magnetic field to produce precise images of body tissues without exposing patients to radiation or radioactive solutions.
When used in conjunction with mammography and ultrasound, breast MRI is an important tool for detecting and monitoring breast cancer. An injection contrast material will highlight blood vessels within the breast and is the most sensitive imaging means of detecting breast cancer. The technique is particularly useful for evaluating women with high risk of breast cancer, breast implants, dense breasts, or prior breast cancer surgery and radiation. A breast MRI is painless and takes about 30 minutes. You should bring a mammogram taken six months or less from the date of your MRI.
There is no special preparation required but here are some helpful hints:
- Wear comfortable clothing without zippers such as a sweat suit
- Wear little or no makeup
- Jewelry must be removed for procedure so consider leaving it home