What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is an x-ray of the internal breast tissue. It uses low-dose radiation to create images which allow radiologists to detect changes in breast tissue that could indicate a medical condition. The primary use of mammography is to detect cancer, however, mammography can also detect other, more common, benign conditions such as cysts and benign masses called fibroadenomas. Studies have shown that mammograms can detect some changes as much as two years before they can be felt during a breast exam.
When should I have a Mammogram?
The American Cancer Society has established the following guidelines:
- Age 35-40 – Your Healthcare provider may recommend a baseline screening
- Age 40 – 49 – A mammogram every year or as recommended by your healthcare provider
- Age 50+ - A yearly mammogram
- High risk women’s healthcare providers may recommend mammography screening at an earlier age or more frequently
How do I schedule a Mammogram?
There are two classifications of mammograms:
- A screening mammogram is done regularly (usually annually) on women who have no symptoms, e.g., they do not feel a lump in their breast. Women can schedule these exams by calling the Central Scheduling Department at 413-447-2451. The Central Scheduling Department hours are Monday thru Friday from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm.
- A diagnostic mammogram is done when a woman is experiencing symptoms such as a palpable lump or spontaneous nipple discharge. Women must go through their healthcare provider to schedule these types of exams.
How do I prepare for my appointment?
- If your previous mammograms were not performed at Berkshire Medical Center’s Women’s Imaging Center, Fairview Hospital, or the former North Adams Regional Hospital (now the Northern Berkshire Campus of BMC), please arrange to have copies of them sent to the Women’s Imaging Center, even if your appointment is at Fairview or the Northern Berkshire Campus. The address is 777 North Street, Pittsfield MA 01201. The radiologist will need these for comparison.
- Please leave enough time before your appointment for the images to arrive at Women’s Imaging. Not obtaining prior exams from an outside facility before your appointment may result in extra imaging or a delay in getting your results.
- Bring a list of your current medications with you to your exam. You may print out a Medications Form and fill it out or you may bring a copy of your own list.
- Do not wear perfumes, powders, or deodorant on the day of the exam. These substances can be seen on a mammogram and can interfere with an accurate interpretation of the exam by the radiologist.
- You may wear a button-front shirt (no bra) for your exam or you may change into a gown once you arrive for your appointment.
- If you are also scheduled for a breast ultrasound that day, you may prefer changing into a gown to avoid getting gel on your shirt.
- The Women’s Imaging Center cannot provide child care services. Bringing children to your appointment may interfere with this clinical service and may necessitate rescheduling the exam.
- Please arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to allow time for parking and registration.
A member of our Pre-Registration staff may call you to pre-register you for this appointment. If contacted, this will save you time on the day of your appointment. Our Pre-Registration staff will ask you to verify your basic information, including insurance information. If you would like to call us directly to pre-register, please call 413-447-2455 one to three days prior to your appointment. The hours for the Pre-Registration Department are Monday through Friday from 8:10 a.m. until 8:15 p.m.
If you have any questions about your exam or if you wish to reschedule your exam to a new day or time, please call the Central Scheduling Department at 413-447-2451 and they will be happy to assist you. The hours for the Central Scheduling Department are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
If you would like to have an English-language interpreter for your appointment, please inform us at the time you book your appointment.
What is a mammogram like?
After checking in at the front desk, you will be taken to the changing area to change into a gown if you choose. After changing, you will be seated in the waiting room until a room becomes available for your exam. The technologist will first interview you to confirm your basic information and to take a breast history from you. She will then take you to the exam room. In the exam room, the technologist will position your breast on the platform of the mammogram machine and then gradually compress the breast with a special paddle.
Compression is necessary to:
- Even out the breast tissue so that any abnormalities will not be hidden
- Decrease the amount of radiation used by making the tissue thinner
- Hold the breast still to avoid a blurry image caused by motion
A typical screening mammogram consists of a top-to-bottom view and an oblique side view of each breast. During a diagnostic mammogram, additional views are taken focusing on the area of interest.
After a screening mammogram, you will be asked to wait until the technologist has reviewed the images to ensure that they are of a quality high enough to send to the radiologist for interpretation. In the case of a diagnostic mammogram, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist has reviewed your images. You may also, at the discretion of the radiologist, have an ultrasound at this time.
What is a ‘Call Back’?
If the radiologist identifies an area of interest on a screening mammogram, a technologist will contact you to ask you to return for additional imaging. About 10% of all screening mammograms result in a Call Back.
Receiving a Call Back does not necessarily mean that something “bad” has been found. Mammography detects many benign conditions along with the more worrisome ones such as cancer. Sometimes the changes seen on a mammogram are merely the result of the normal aging process or changes in weight, but any change needs to be addressed to obtain a definitive diagnosis.
Be prepared to spend an hour or more with us when you return for more imaging. Additional mammographic views are taken and sometimes an ultrasound is performed to provide additional information for the radiologist. If you are called back, the radiologist will review your images while you wait and you will receive your results that day.
We suggest you contact your insurance company to check your coverage for this additional diagnostic mammogram.
How do I obtain my screening mammogram results?
The radiologist will review all of your images and generate a report that will be faxed to your ordering provider. The results are available electronically for all of your providers to view. You will also receive a letter with your results seven days after your appointment.