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Mammography Screening vs Diagnostic

Screening and Diagnostic Mammography

American Cancer Society Mammography Guidelines recommend that women 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year.  Women who have a first degree relative (mother or sister) that has been diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause should begin screening ten years prior to the age at which their relative was diagnosed but not earlier than at 25.  Example, if a woman's mother was diagnosed at 45 she should start yearly screening at 35. Saint Joseph Breast Center Mammogram


Screening mammography is performed on women who are asymptomatic (no sign or symptoms) for breast cancer.  A screening mammogram usually consists of two views of each breast. Additional views may be needed to adequately image all of the breast tissue, depending on the woman's tissue and other factors.

A screening mammogram will take about 30 minutes including registration and time in the dressing room. The result is usually available to the patient's physician within a couple days and the patient receives written results within a few days unless there is a delay (such as awaiting prior mammograms to arrive for comparison).  Comparison mammograms are vitally important to achieving the most accurate reading.


Diagnostic mammography is performed under the direct supervision of the interpreting radiologist (physician). A diagnostic mammogram is done when a woman has a lump or abnormal results from a screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammography requires a written order by a referring physician or the radiologist recommending additional imaging.  The charges for diagnostic imaging are usually applied to the patient's deductible by the insurance carrier. A diagnostic mammogram can include the standard two views of each breast or many other views which are designed to best show the abnormality. Diagnostic results are given to the patient the day of the exam by either the technologist or the radiologist. Other testing such as ultrasound or biopsy may be warranted to diagnose an abnormality and is frequently performed on the same day.

More information about screening and diagnostic mammography is available at the American Cancer Society website and at the Federal Food and Drug Administration website 


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