What is a Mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray that creates images of your breast tissue. It is performed to help providers detect breast cancer, often before symptoms appear.

The American College of Radiology recommends annual mammograms beginning at age 40. If you are not having breast concerns, you will be scheduled for a 2D or 3D screening (routine) mammogram. All insurances cover 2D mammograms. Not all insurances cover 3D mammograms. It is the patient’s responsibility to check with insurance before arriving for an appointment. Please inform the person scheduling your screening mammogram if you have breast implants. Additional views are needed which require more time.

If you have breast concerns such as a lump or discharge, a diagnostic mammogram will be scheduled. Diagnostic mammograms involve more images and require more time.

Routine mammograms are a screening test. They cannot tell if you have cancer; they identify suspicious areas that may require further testing.

You should not schedule your mammogram when your breasts are tender, such as before or during your period. Compression during mammography is essential to reduce X-ray exposure and to get accurate images.

Before the Exam

Providing safe, quality patient care is our highest priority. For the best experience please properly prepare for your appointment:

  • Do not use any deodorant, powder, perfume, or lotion in your underarm area or on your breasts. Residue from these products can often be detected in the images and create misleading results.
  • You will be asked to undress from the waist up; consider wearing a two-piece outfit.
  • Please bring any mammogram images you had outside the St. Cloud area. Comparing your previous images with your current study is an important part of your exam.
  • Do not bring children with you to your appointment. For their safety children are not allowed to accompany you in the exam room. Staff are unable to monitor children.

During the Exam

2D Mammograms

  • Two X-ray views of each breast will be taken to evaluate the entire breast. The technologist will guide you through the positioning. If able, you will stand during the mammogram and may be asked to lift your arm. You will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while pictures are taken.
  • Compression will be used on your breast. This helps prevent blurring and gives a clear picture of the breast by spreading out the tissue, so cancer is not hidden, and tissue does not overlap to create false abnormality images. Compression may cause mild discomfort but should not be painful. If you have fragile skin or a skin condition, let the technologist know before your exam.
  • The length of the exam is approximately 20 minutes.

3D Mammograms

  • You may choose to get a 3D mammogram, which is an advanced form of mammography that uses X-rays to create a 3D image of the breast. The technologist will guide you through the same positioning as a 2D mammogram.
  • You will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while the mammogram equipment takes multiple pictures from different angles. The additional image slices taken with 3D mammogram create a more accurate exam of the breast than 2D mammography. 3D mammograms have been shown to decrease the chance of needing to come back for additional imaging by up to 40%. They have also been shown to increase the detection of all breast cancers by 29% and of invasive breast cancers by 41%.
  • As mentioned above, not all insurances cover 3D mammography and it is your responsibility to check with insurance before you arrive for your appointment.
  • The length of the exam is approximately 20 minutes.

After the Exam

  • You may go back to your usual activities right away.
  • There may be temporary skin discoloration and aching of one or both breasts due to the compression. Our mammographers strive to provide excellent care and superior imaging; we regret any discomfort that you may experience because of the breast compression used during your mammogram.
  • A radiologist is a doctor who reads your images and reviews them with CAD (Computer Aided Detection), which is a method of “double checking” your mammogram images.

Results are provided in a variety of ways:

  • If you have a routine mammogram, the Breast Center will notify you by letter of your mammogram results in 3-5 business days.
  • If you have MyChart you will typically receive a notification within 24-48 hours that your results are available for you to review.
  • If additional images are needed, you will receive a phone call from the Breast Center to schedule.
  • Mammogram results are reported to your provider.

If you have not received results within five working days of your mammogram, please contact your provider.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your provider.

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