Frequently Asked Questions About Mammograms
What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray or digital image of the breast. Currently, it is
the best screening tool available to detect breast cancer in its’
early stages.
Are there times when a digital mammogram may be preferable to an x-ray mammogram?
Digital mammograms are the preferred option when women have dense breast tissue, are under the age of 50 or have not yet gone through menopause. Both digital and x-ray mammograms can detect abnormalities in breast tissue.
Can x-ray mammograms cause cancer?
The risk of cancer is minute and far outweighs the value of it uncovering breast cancer in an early, treatable stage. Mammograms use the lowest dose of radiation of any x-ray.
When should I get a mammogram and how often?
Typically, a woman has her first mammogram at age 40, and then once a year, each year. However, if she or her doctor detects a change in her breast, a mammogram may be indicated at an earlier age. Also, if a woman has a family history of breast cancer, a screening mammogram may be scheduled as early as age 30.
What steps can I take to make my mammogram a positive experience positive?
  1. Choose a certified facility. Their certificate will be displayed prominently
  2. Pick a good time to schedule your mammogram – preferably one week or so after your last period. Your breast will be less tender
  3. Gather information, such as family history, any problems you may be experiencing, your primary doctor’s name
  4. Know what to expect – learn about the procedure, what kind of mammogram; x-ray or digital; you may feel uncomfortable, but it only lasts a few seconds.
  5. Come prepared. Dress in clothes that will make it easy for you to undress, skip neck jewelry and don’t use underarm deodorant. If you going to a different facility arrange to have past mammograms delivered before your mammogram or arrange to bring them with you.
  6. Understand that it may be 2-3 weeks before you get your results.
What’s the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?
A screening mammogram scans both breasts, looking for abnormalities or trouble spots. A diagnostic mammogram is used when a trouble spot has been detected during a routine screening mammogram. The diagnostic mammogram zeroes in on the trouble spot.
How often do screening mammograms lead to diagnostic mammograms?
About 10% of women have diagnostic mammograms because something showed up on their screening mammograms. And usually, about 10% of those women have a biopsy, with 80% of biopsies ruling out breast cancer.
What can show up on a mammogram?
  • Calcification – tiny calcium deposits in breast tissue that are usually benign. Depending on how they appear in a mammogram, more testing may need to be conducted to rule out breast cancer. Calcifications can be a precursor to breast cancer.
  • Cyst – a fluid filled sac that can usually be felt and may cause pain prior to menstrual periods. A true or simple cyst is benign and can be drained by a doctor during a routine office visit if it is causing pain. If the fluid shows any traces of blood, it can be tested for cancerous cells.
  • Lump – a growth in the breast that can be felt during breast self-exams or by a doctor during a clinical exam. Most lumps are benign (harmless) cysts. However, a doctor should check all lumps.
  • Mass - a growth seen on a screening x-ray or digital mammogram. Most masses turn out to be harmless, however your doctor may want you to have further testing to be sure.
What if I cannot afford a mammogram?
If you have insurance, most plans cover it. Medicare also pays for mammograms. Call the Amarillo Area Breast Health Coalition (331-4710) or email Linda Bergara for more information about other services that may be available to you in the Amarillo Area.



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