Keeping Your Breasts Healthy

Nearly one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer deaths are declining, most likely because of early detection and improved treatment.

Routine care for women of all ages is vital to keeping you and your breasts healthy and should include annual mammograms with clinical breast exams, in addition to regular self-examinations.

Mammogram Services Near You

You can get a mammogram at the Huntsman Cancer Institute or at one of University of Utah Health's neighborhood health centers throughout the Wasatch Front.

We offer the following services:

  • Screening mammogram for breast cancer; your mammogram will be read by a breast radiologist from Huntsman Cancer Institute.
  • Expert care if you've been diagnosed with breast cancer or other breast conditions
  • Genetic counseling, which is available if you're concerned about your chances of developing breast cancer based on your family history

Coming From Another Health Institution?

If you're coming to us from another institution, we need a copy of your most recent mammograms for comparison. Your exam results will be delayed if we need to request your prior mammogram images.

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What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram (also called mammography) is an X-ray examination of your breast. Doctors use mammograms to detect and diagnose breast cancer in women who have symptoms in their breast (like lumps or pain), or for women who have no symptoms at all.

A mammogram lets doctors detect:

  • breast cancers,
  • benign tumors, and
  • cysts.

Often mammograms can show these before they can be felt by hand or through touch (palpitation).

Mammogram Screening Guidelines

Despite recent controversy regarding screening guidelines, at University of Utah Health, we continue to recommend annual screening mammograms for average risk women starting at the age of 40.

Based on accepted long-standing research, mammograms have been shown to decrease the chance of dying from breast cancer in women 40–74 years of age, with the most lives saved in women between 40-49 years of age.

Screening recommendations may be different for women at higher than average risk of breast cancer.

What to Expect at Your Mammogram

What to expect when you get a mammogram (infographic) | University of Utah Health
View infographic.

When you arrive, you will be asked to undress from the waist up and take off your deodorant. We will give you a robe to wear during the procedure. A mammogram usually involves two to three X-rays of each breast.

Because breast tissue can be very dense and difficult to screen, the mammogram equipment will press your breast between two plates to spread the tissue apart.

Does a Mammogram Hurt?

Most women find mammograms uncomfortable. During a mammogram, your technologist will press (or compress) your breast between two plates. The compression only lasts for a few seconds—just long enough for your technologist to get a good image of each of your breasts. It's important to get the best images possible.

Before your mammogram, ask your technologist to explain the procedure as well as any other questions you have.

How Long Does a Mammogram Take?

There are generally two types of mammograms: a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram. A screening mammogram will take less time than a diagnostic mammogram.

  1. Screening mammogram: A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer. By using a mammogram, health care professionals can detect a tumor that you can't feel with your hand.

Time: About 15 minutes

  1. Diagnostic mammogram: A diagnostic mammogram is an X-ray of the breast doctors use to diagnose unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple thickening or discharge, or a change in breast size or shape.

A diagnostic mammogram takes more pictures than a screening mammogram. Health care providers also use diagnostic mammograms to evaluate abnormalities detected on a screening mammogram.

Time: Screening time depends on what the imaging specialist needs to make a diagnosis. But the screening usually lasts for 30-60 minutes.

Mammogram Results

Your doctor will receive your results, and you will then get a letter explaining these results. If you need more imaging, the clinic will call you within a few days of the screening exam.

 

3D Mammogram

At select locations, we offer 3D mammography (also called breast tomosynthesis) for both screening and diagnostic mammograms. Like standard mammography, it uses X-rays to take images of the breast at multiple angles. The exam takes the same amount of time as the regular two-dimensional screening mammogram. Women also still need breast compression.

Your doctor can perform a 3D mammogram as a part of your standard screening mammogram, which is the only exam that decreases a woman’s chances of dying from breast cancer. Your doctor can also perform 3D mammograms as part of your diagnostic mammography evaluation if you have breast symptoms.

3D Mammogram Benefits

There are many benefits of getting a 3D mammogram. Benefits include the following:

  • 3D mammograms provide your radiologist interpreting your exam with additional information.
  • 3D mammograms increase breast cancer detection by approximately 30 percent, especially for invasive breast cancer and particularly for women who have dense breast tissue.
  • 3D mammograms decrease your chances of being called back for an abnormal screening mammogram.
  • 3D mammograms use the same radiation dose as a standard mammogram with FDA-approved computer processing techniques.

Most insurance companies also pay for 3D mammograms.