Mammogram Testing for Breast Cancer
A mammogram is a test performed with a machine that is specifically designed to create detailed X-ray images of breast tissue using compression and small doses of ionizing radiation. Mammograms often reveal solid tumors, fluid-filled cysts and fatty masses that are otherwise unnoticeable, as well as clusters of calcium called microcalcifications that may or may not be cancerous. 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 a heightened risk of developing breast cancer.
There are two main types of mammograms:
- A screening mammogram is a preventive measure used to check for possible signs of breast cancer in women who do not have any noticeable symptoms.
- A diagnostic mammogram can be used to take a closer look at an abnormality or cellular change detected in a screening mammogram by producing additional images focused on a suspicious area.
In addition to standard mammography, which produces two-dimensional images, breast tomosynthesis can be used to create a three-dimensional mammogram, which can be especially helpful for evaluating dense breast tissue. During this test, a breast is compressed once while multiple low-dose X-rays are captured from many angles as the machine slowly moves around it. A computer then compiles the images to create a detailed, three-dimensional picture.
It’s important to keep in mind that the results of any mammogram alone cannot conclusively prove that a change in breast tissue is precancerous or cancerous. In fact, most of the abnormalities detected through mammography turn out to be benign (noncancerous). To make this determination, a physician 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 solid mass, a physician may recommend a biopsy to remove a small sample of cells from a suspicious area to check for the presence of cancer.
The outstanding fellowship-trained radiologists at Moffitt Cancer Center are skilled and experienced in performing the latest breast cancer screening techniques. Our comprehensive screening services are complemented by individualized advice, breakthrough treatments and compassionate support from a multispecialty team that specializes in breast cancer.
If you would like to request an appointment for a mammogram at Moffitt Cancer Center, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.