What’s The Difference Between Screening and Diagnostic Mammography?

Bedford Breast Center

Mammography is the most effective method for breast cancer screening as it is often the first line of early detection. Generally, mammography divides into two categories:

  • Screening mammograms
  • Diagnostic mammograms

What is a Screening Mammogram?

Screening mammograms look for signs of cancers. “Screening” mammogram implies that there is nothing wrong, that there are no symptoms, no problems or complaints of breast disease – that neither you nor your doctor feel anything out of the ordinary.

A screening mammogram normally is taken with 2 x-ray views of each breast. Although, for some women with larger breasts, additional images may be necessary.

The goal of a screening mammogram is find breast cancer when it’s too small to be felt. This is a once-a year check done to make sure that subtle unsafe findings are not present.

Yearly screening mammograms are recommended for all women starting at the age of 40 as well as a yearly clinical breast exam by your healthcare professional.

If you have a higher risk for breast cancer your doctor may recommend a mammogram at an earlier age.

Finding breast cancer as early as possible before it has grown or spread greatly improves a woman’s chance for a successful treatment.

What is a Diagnostic Mammogram?

Diagnostic mammograms investigate possible problems and involves additional views of the breast.

These images are the same images as a screening mammogram, the difference is that we are focused on an area that was raised by you, your doctor or as indicated from a previous screening that showed an area standing out as abnormal from the surrounding tissue.

It needs to be evaluated by a doctor on site while you are present. We will give you a clear understanding on what we need to do next.

Sometimes diagnostic mammograms will be used for women who were previously treated for breast cancer.

A Diagnostic Mammogram Is Usually Interpreted In 1 of 3 Ways:

  1. What is seen or felt is likely attributable to healthy things.
    • We may want to check that area again in six months, to be extra safe.
      • (This does NOT mean you need a mammogram every six months FOREVER)!
    • We may feel completely confident that it is safe and feel that you can return to your regular screening schedule without any additional images or intervention.
  1. It requires additional imaging to get more advanced views and a clearer understanding on whether or not it is safe or unsafe; either Dr. Memsic or Dr. Richardson can provide this additional order, if you are under their care, if not, your referring physician will need to provide the order for this additional imaging.
  2. It requires a tissue sample (biopsy) to discern the nature of the area.
    • This can sometimes be done during the same visit, if it is seen on ultrasound.
    • If it requires mammogram guidance, this may need to be done at a later time as it requires more preparation than an ultrasound biopsy.
    • Surgical removal is not usually the first line of investigation before a core needle biopsy has been done, but it can be a good choice for specific situations. Let us know if you think you may fall into this category.

You MUST have an ORDER from a doctor to have a diagnostic mammogram. If you have an order for a mammogram in Beverly Hills, we can help you with this.

If you have seen Dr. Memsic or Dr. Richardson at our Breast Care Center, we can sometimes provide this order for you.

Schedule a Mammogram at Our Beverly Hills Medical Center

To help you understand and select the best option in mammography for you, schedule a consultation with one of our breast health specialists. Contact our Beverly Hills medical center or call us at (310) 278-8590.

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