A mammogram is an exam performed with an X-ray machine that creates detailed images of the breasts using compression and small doses of ionizing radiation. Mammograms can reveal masses, tiny calcifications or disruption of the normal breast that are otherwise unnoticeable. As such, a mammogram can be valuable for detecting breast cancer in its earliest stages, when more treatment options are usually available. For this reason, the multispecialty team in the Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center recommends annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40 for most women, and earlier for women who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Types of mammograms
There are two main types of mammograms:
- Screening mammograms – A screening mammogram is an early detection tool used to check for possible signs of breast cancer in women who do not have any symptoms.
- Diagnostic mammograms – A diagnostic mammogram is an exam used to evaluate an abnormal finding detected on a screening mammogram or to evaluate symptoms such as pain, a lump or nipple discharge.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, both screening and diagnostic mammogram exams include digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT or 3D mammography). Tomosynthesis enhances a clinician’s ability to detect breast cancers and results in fewer patients being called back for additional diagnostic imaging. These advantages make tomosynthesis a highly effective tool for the prompt detection of breast abnormalities.
During a tomosynthesis exam, each breast is compressed twice while multiple low-dose X-rays are captured from many different angles as the machine slowly moves around it. A computer then compiles the images to create a detailed, three dimensional-like picture.
Mammograms for women with breast implants
Routine mammograms are still recommended for women with breast implants (excluding those who received a double mastectomy, or surgery to remove both breasts, prior to receiving implants). An average-risk woman with or without breast implants should receive a mammogram once every year starting at age 40.
Today’s most common types of breast implants—silicone and saline—do not increase breast cancer risk and are widely considered safe. However, implants do make it more difficult for radiologists and physicians to spot abnormalities on a mammogram. To help capture clear images of as much breast tissue as possible, women with implants usually have an additional two pictures taken on each breast (known as implant displacement views) during a screening mammogram. Capturing these images involves pushing the implant back toward the chest wall and gently pulling breast tissue forward.
What if my mammogram shows an abnormality?
It’s important to keep in mind that a change in breast tissue seen on a mammogram does not conclusively prove cancer. In fact, most of the abnormalities detected through mammography turn out to be benign (noncancerous). To make this determination, a health care professional will typically order additional testing, such as more detailed images produced by a breast ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If further testing reveals a suspicious finding, it may be necessary to perform a biopsy to remove a small sample of cells from the abnormal area to check for the presence of cancer under a microscope.
The subspecialized breast imaging radiologists at Moffitt Cancer Center are highly skilled and experienced in performing the latest breast cancer screening and diagnostic techniques for all women, including those with breast implants. Our comprehensive screening services are complemented by individualized advice, breakthrough treatments and compassionate support from a multispecialty team that focuses exclusively on breast cancer.
Mammogram locations at Moffitt Cancer Center
We currently offer mammograms at two convenient locations, including:
Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Outpatient Center at McKinley Campus
10920 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa, FL 33612
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday | 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday | 7:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Moffitt Cancer Center at International Plaza
4101 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa, FL 33607
Monday and Thursday | 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday | 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Breast cancer risk assessments at Moffitt
It’s imperative that women and their physicians understand the importance of identifying specific risk factors for breast cancer so they can take action to prevent the disease or detect it early, when breast cancer is easier to treat. Moffitt stands out from many other cancer screening providers because we evaluate breast cancer risk factors for every patient who comes to us for screening. This helps us identify women who have an elevated risk for breast cancer and could benefit from more intensive screening beyond an annual mammogram.
Breast cancer risk factors that we assess
When a patient receives a breast cancer screening at Moffitt, our specialists will provide an individualized risk assessment and guidance toward managing her specific breast cancer risk. Below are some of the many risk factors that we evaluate.
Women with close family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer face a significantly higher risk of developing this disease. However, both women and their healthcare providers tend to overestimate the importance of family history when calculating breast cancer risk. The vast majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. In addition, having family members who had certain other types of cancer can also increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
Inherited gene mutations
Patients who inherited certain mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are more prone to developing breast cancer.
A patient’s risk for developing breast cancer increases with age, with most new cases diagnosed in women 50 and older. About 9% of new cases are found in women younger than 45.
Women who started their menstrual periods before age 12 and experienced menopause after age 55 have a higher risk for breast cancer because of their prolonged exposure to hormones.
Women whose breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue are more likely to get breast cancer.
Being overweight after menopause elevates a woman’s risk for breast cancer, and other lifestyle factors may increase her risk as well.
Prior radiation, drug or hormone therapy
Patients who had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30, took certain medications or had hormone therapy (including certain birth control pills) may have a higher breast cancer risk.
Breast cancer risk assessment clinics
In addition to providing individual risk assessments for breast cancer screening patients, we also offer the following assessment clinics:
- Breast Evaluation Clinic – For patients who are having breast symptoms and/or who had an abnormal imaging study at another facility
- Breast Surveillance Clinic – For women at increased risk of breast cancer because of certain medical conditions
- Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic – A free, eight-week workshop designed to help breast cancer survivors transition from active treatment, with strategies for good nutrition, stress management and exercise
- Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer Screening and Prevention Clinic – Provides comprehensive care and counseling to women at increased risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer due to family history, and includes appropriate surveillance test recommendations (such as mammograms, transvaginal ultrasounds, pap smears, breast MRIs and CA-125 blood tests)
Diagnosis matters. Choose Moffitt first.
If you would like to request an appointment for a mammogram and risk assessment at Moffitt Cancer Center—Florida’s No. 1 cancer hospital—call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. Moffitt is streamlining access to world-class cancer care by welcoming patients without referrals and responding to appointment requests within 24 hours.
American Cancer Society: Mammograms for Women With Breast Implants