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Getting a screening mammogram is extremely important for breast health. At Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, we provide mammography services through the Thompson Comprehensive Breast Center, located in the Thompson Cancer Survival Center across from the hospital.
A mammogram is an X-ray image of a patient’s breast used to find and diagnose breast disease. Mammograms look for breast cancers and for noncancerous or benign tumors and cysts, often before they can be felt.
Thompson Comprehensive Breast Center uses the latest in digital technology, including digital 3D mammography (tomosynthesis), which allows the radiologist to better detect smaller cancers, even among women with dense breast tissue.
A physician referral usually is not required for screening mammograms, although a physician may order a mammogram if the patient has a breast problem. The American College of Radiology and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend women get a screening mammogram each year beginning at age 40.
“Simply put, women should get screening mammograms because mammography saves lives,” said Gayle Roulier, MD, a radiologist at the Thompson Comprehensive Breast Center. “Regular screening mammography use cuts the risk of dying from breast cancer nearly in half.”
A mammogram itself cannot prove that an abnormal area is cancer, but if a mammogram shows an area in the breast that is abnormal, the physician may order a breast ultrasound or obtain a sample of breast tissue, also known as a biopsy. The tissue is then tested under a microscope to see if it is cancerous.
If you’re new to the mammogram experience, here’s what to expect:
- Don’t use deodorant, powder or lotions on the day of your mammogram.
- Wear two-piece clothing.
- A specially trained radiology technologist will do the x-ray.
- The technologist will ask you some questions about your breast health and family history of breast disease to assess your risk level.
- The technologist will ask you to undress, put on a gown and stand next to the x-ray machine.
- Two flat surfaces (plates) are slowly squeezed together, compressing the breast for a few seconds. This spreads the breast tissue and allows a lower dose of radiation.
- Once the scans are collected the mammogram process is over, and the radiologist will share the results with your physician.
- Not counting wait times, the mammography scans take 10 minutes or less to complete.
In addition to performing the mammogram screening, our specialists at the Thompson Comprehensive Breast Center also educate women on the proper way to perform a monthly self-breast exam at home. Dr. Roulier says learning to do these self-exams is extremely important.
Today’s high-quality screening mammogram is the best tool available to detect breast cancer before lumps can be felt or symptoms appear. Finding breast cancer early helps give a woman more choices and increases her chances of having the best possible outcome.
“When breast cancer is detected early via mammography, it allows for treatment with less extensive surgery and less chemotherapy,” Roulier said.
If you’re ready to schedule your mammogram with the Thompson Comprehensive Breast Center or want more information, please visit FSRegional.com/imaging-services or call (865) 331-1157.