Mitchell County Regional Health Center

What is a mammogram?

Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses low-dose radiation to make x-ray pictures of the internal breast tissue. Normally, two images of each breast will be taken. If you have breast implants, you can still have a mammogram, but four films of each breast will most likely be required. When the mammogram is completed you will be asked to wait until the technologist examines the images to determine if more are needed.

During a mammogram a technologist will guide you to position your breasts for the exam. The breast is placed on a special platform and compressed with a paddle.

Breast compression is necessary in order to:

  • Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be seen;
  • Spread out the tissue so that overlying breast tissue won’t block out small defects;
  • Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the picture caused by motion.

Breast cancer is more likely to be treated successfully if the tumor is found when it is too small to by felt with the fingers. This is because small tumors are much less likely to have spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit or other organs of the body. Mammography is the only way to consistently find these small breast cancers. Ultrasound may also be used in special cases to help in diagnosis, but neither of these tests is suitable for general screening. A mammogram done on a woman without any breast problems is called a “Screening Mammogram”.

Initial screening mammography images themselves are not always enough to determine if your breast tissue is normal or if there could be breast disease such as cancer.

About 10% of the time, screening mammograms will show a finding that requires further, detailed mammogram films and possibly ultrasound. However, only a very small percentage of these areas examined further will turn out to be cancer. Likewise, if you or your doctor feels a lump, special mammogram films will be needed. In addition, ultrasound may be necessary to make a diagnosis. When special mammogram films are taken because of an abnormality found on a screening mammogram OR because you or your doctor notices a breast problem, this mammogram is called a “Diagnostic Mammogram”.

This procedure will take 30-40 minutes.

Preparation for procedure:

Please do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam because this may appear on the mammogram film as calcium spots. Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the x-ray technologist performing the exam.

If you have any questions or would like more information contact us at:

Radiology Department
616 North Eighth Street
Osage, Iowa 50461-1498
Phone: 641-732-6036
Fax: 641-732-6038