Screening & Diagnostic Mammography

What is screening & diagnostic digital mammography?

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts that checks for abnormalities in a woman’s breast tissue. The results of the exam are transmitted by computer to a radiologist for evaluation, allowing for an in-depth look at changes in the breast tissue that cannot be felt during a regular breast exam. Both screening and diagnostic digital mammography results are stored on a computer, allowing the radiologist to magnify the images and take a closer look. Some other benefits of a digital mammography exam include:
- Slight differences between normal and abnormal tissues may be more easily recognized.
- The number of follow-up tests needed may be reduced.
- Fewer repeat images may be required, reducing exposure to radiation. 
Screening Digital Mammography
A screening mammogram is performed for women who have not experienced breast cancer symptoms and usually involves two x-ray images of each breast. Screening mammograms can detect lumps or tumors that may go undetected by touch, and can also find microcalcifications (tiny deposits of calcium) in the breast, which may indicate the presence of breast cancer. 
Diagnostic Digital Mammography
Diagnostic mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other abnormal change has already been detected during a regular screening. Signs of breast cancer may include pain, thickened skin on the breast, nipple discharge, or a change in breast size or shape. A diagnostic mammogram may also be used to obtain more information about changes found on a screening mammogram, or to obtain more views of the breast that were difficult to obtain during the screening mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram takes a little longer than a screening mammogram because the x-ray technician takes more pictures of the breast from several different angles.

How often should I get a Mammogram?

Though different sources have different beliefs about the right starting age and frequency women should receive mammograms, the American College of Radiology (ACR) suggests women age 40 and older who are at average risk for breast cancer should have an annual screening mammogram.