Frequently Asked Questions

Breast Cancer Screening

Once considered essential for early detection of breast cancer, breast self-exams (BSE) are now considered optional. However, it is still important to be familiar with your breasts and what they normally look and feel like, so that if there is a change you will notice it.

A mammogram is a special type of x-ray imaging exam used to create detailed images of the breast. Mammograms are the only FDA-approved test for screening breast cancer. Mammography uses low dose X-rays; high contrast, high-resolution film; and an X-ray system designed specifically for imaging the breasts. Mammography plays a major role in early detection of breast cancers, which, in turn, increases the chances of successful treatment and survival.

Mammograms are generally not painful, but they can be uncomfortable for some patients due to the amount of compression required to get a good image of the breast. The quality of your mammogram depends on compression of the breast. Compression decreases breast motion that can cause blurry images and flattens the breast so that all of the tissue can be visualized in the image. The total x-ray dose to the breast is also greatly reduced by good breast compression. If you feel discomfort during your exam, please inform your technologist. Discomfort may also depend on what time of the month the exam is being performed, since some women experience breast tenderness during menstruation.

You should have a mammogram every year, beginning at age 40. Patients at high risk for breast cancer, especially those with a strong family history, should consult their doctor about beginning annual mammograms prior to age 40. Read more about breast cancer screening guidelines here.

You can get an order for a mammogram from your primary care or gynecology provider, or schedule it yourself at the Breast Imaging Center (you must be established with a primary care or gynecology provider). If possible, have your mammograms performed at the same center every time, since direct comparison is essential for accurate diagnosis.

If you have breast implants, you should still have mammograms—just remember to inform the facility about your implants when you make your appointment. The technologist and radiologist will take special measures to visualize your breast tissue, since implants can sometimes make it harder to see problems.

Women who are breastfeeding can still get mammograms, although the results may be less reliable because the breast tissue tends to be denser than usual. Be sure to pump directly prior to your mammogram.

3D Mammography, also known as digital tomosynthesis, uses advanced three-dimensional technology during the same time as two-dimensional imaging. The 3D technology provides radiologists with a very detailed view of the breast tissue and has been proven to reduce the number of callbacks by 20 to 40 percent. It has even allowed doctors to detect some cancers earlier. Learn more by viewing our Frequently Asked Questions.

You should contact your primary care or gynecology provider for an exam and evaluation. He or she can provide you with an order for a diagnostic mammogram if necessary. You may also call us at (404) 778-PINK (7465) and select option #3.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

There's no easy answer to this question. All women have a risk for breast cancer, and there are many factors to consider. Five to 10 percent of breast cancers are considered to be hereditary; however, you don't inherit breast cancer. You inherit risk or susceptibility.

If you have a close family member (mother, sister, or grandmother) who was diagnosed with breast cancer, especially before menopause, you may have an increased risk. It may be a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your family history and options for screening and early detection. Another option is to talk with a genetic counselor to determine if genetic testing is appropriate for your situation. It's important to remember that no matter your risk factors, no one is 100 percent certain to get breast cancer.

If you have had a genetic test that shows you have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, you may want to meet with a genetic counselor to discuss the implications for you and your family. Women with these mutations have significantly increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer over their lifetime. Your healthcare provider may recommend starting screening younger and being screened every six months instead of yearly. Extra tests such as breast MRI are likely to be recommended as well. Additionally, you may want to meet with a breast surgeon and a GYN specialist to help determine the appropriate high-risk screening.

Certain mutations which increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancer are common in this particular population. If you are a woman of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish heritage, you may want to talk with a genetic counselor about the possibility of doing genetic testing.

Other Procedures

Interventional procedures include cyst aspirations, fine needle aspirations, core biopsies and breast localizations. Local anesthesia is administered to the site to limit the amount of discomfort. Minimal discomfort may be experienced.

Usually the next day, unless you are having an excisional biopsy or surgery.

We ask our patients to refrain from any strenuous exercise and avoid any heavy lifting for approximately 24 hours.

Usually between five and seven working days. These results are sent to your referring physician and are not sent to the Breast Imaging Center.