Mammography

Mammograms are one of the most important tools doctors have in breast cancer prevention and early detection. At Providence, our goal is to provide safe and accurate mammograms to help detect breast cancer in its earliest, most curable stage.

A mammogram is an X-ray photograph of the breast used to screen for breast cancer. Providence St. Joseph Health utilizes digital mammography, which provides clearer, more accurate X-ray images. This means shorter examination times, quicker results, more convenience and less anxiety for you.

While viewing mammograms digitally on the computer, a radiologist can closely examine any area by zooming in, adjusting brightness or changing the contrast of the X-ray image, making all areas of the breast easier to see. Computer-aided detection and diagnosis (CAD) is also used on the images to help find tumors that a radiologist otherwise could not detect.

Types of mammograms fall into two categories: screening and diagnostic mammograms.
  • Screening mammograms are used to detect abnormalities within your breasts. If abnormalities, such as lumps, areas of asymmetry or calcifications are detected, we may recommend a diagnostic mammogram to further evaluate that abnormality.
  • Diagnostic mammograms reveal more information about a specific area of concern than screening mammograms. If a detected abnormality is expected to be malignant, the area of concern can be imaged with additional mammograms (spot compression), ultrasound and/or MRI to ensure accurate results.

During your imaging procedure, you stand in front of a digital X-ray receptor. Your X-ray technician adjusts the machine to your height and positions your breast on a clear plate. The plate will apply minor pressure to your body, but this to ensure the X-rays are able to penetrate the breast tissue evenly.

X-ray images of your breast tissue are instantly rendered. Our radiologists read the images in conjunction with CAD (computer-aided detection) software that calculates the density of your breast tissue and analyzes any abnormalities.

When mammograms are done digitally, they use less radiation, reducing your lifetime exposure to X-rays.