A mammogram, or breast X-ray, is an extremely important yearly exam and your first line of defense against breast cancer.
The team of mammography specialists at AHN breast care centers offers compassionate, quality care. They will walk you through the process, make you feel as comfortable as possible, and be there to support you the entire time.
Quick guide to Mammography
Scheduling your mammogram
All women over the age of 40 should receive a yearly mammogram. It’s also important that you know your other potential risk factors — like a history of breast cancer in your family — and share that with your care team. There are two main types of mammograms:
- Mammogram screening
This is your standard, routine mammogram. You should receive this screening yearly after the age of 40 to help detect potential changes in your breast that could be breast cancer.
- Diagnostic mammography
If a routine mammogram shows something that needs a closer look, or you’re experiencing other symptoms — like breast pain, thickening of skin, nipple discharge or changes in the size of your breasts — your provider may suggest a diagnostic mammogram. This more in-depth screening can view tissue that may have been difficult to see on a standard mammogram.
- Schedule yours about a week after your period.
Your breasts will be less sensitive, making it a bit more comfortable.
- Wear a comfy, two-piece outfit. You’ll need to remove your top and bra.
- Don’t apply deodorant, powder, or lotion. It can affect the imaging.
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Why you should choose AHN
Our team of breast care specialists understands how uncomfortable, and oftentimes overwhelming, receiving a mammogram can be.
That’s why we put extra effort into making it easy to schedule your mammogram — offering convenient locations and appointment times. We’ll also do everything we can to make your screening as stress-free as possible.
We have over 20 Breast Care Centers — serving Pittsburgh, Erie, Grove City, Westfield, NY, and the surrounding areas.
It can be difficult finding time in your schedule for a mammogram. But with our early morning, evening, and weekend hours, you can easily fit a mammogram into your busy work and home schedules.
Our breast specialists use the most innovative tools to protect your health and detect disease. Depending on your circumstances, your care team may recommend one of these screenings or follow-up tests.
- Digital mammography: We store your X-rays electronically on a secure computer system. This technology allows our technicians to more easily compare your images year after year and identify subtle changes.
- 3D mammography: Also called digital tomosynthesis, this screening takes multiple images of your breasts from different angles to create a three-dimensional image. A 3D mammogram is often better than a standard mammogram at detecting cancer signs in breasts that are dense or have little fatty tissue.
- Breast ultrasound: This follow-up procedure after a mammogram helps determine whether a lump is fluid-filled (a noncancerous cyst) or solid. A solid lump may be noncancerous or cancerous.
- Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This imaging procedure uses radio waves to produce detailed images of your breasts. An MRI can measure tumor size and detect other tumors in women already diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s also a helpful screening tool for women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer.
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: Your doctor inserts a very thin needle into the suspicious area to remove a sample of fluid or tissue for testing.
- Core needle biopsy: Your doctor uses a special mammography machine (stereotactic) or ultrasound technology to guide a needle into the suspicious area and remove breast tissue for testing.
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Breast cancer treatment at AHN
No one wants to hear the “c” word. Ever. But if your mammogram does come back with abnormalities, know that our team of doctors, nurses, clinicians, and counselors are here to offer support and guidance. We make it easier for you to get the best possible outcomes. And remember, early detection can go a long way in saving your life.
At the AHN Cancer Institute, you receive a fast, accurate diagnosis and a quick start to treatment. Your options may include novel therapies only available in clinical trials.
Our doctors pioneer groundbreaking advances in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatments for all kinds of cancers. These experts are respected leaders of national organizations with connections to world-class researchers. Learn more about breast cancer treatments.
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Take a look at some common questions
How often should a woman get a mammogram?
Women over the age of 40 should receive a mammogram every year. If you have other risk factors, talk to your doctor.
Do mammograms hurt?
Mammograms are uncomfortable, yes. But it’s important to remember that this quick, 20-minute screening could save your life. The long-term benefits of a mammogram far outweigh the short-term discomfort.
How do I do a self-breast exam?
Doing routine self-exams can be key in detecting changes in your breast. While you should still get your yearly mammogram, doing a self-exam every month allows you to get to know your body better and detect changes. Here are a few steps to follow:
- In the shower: Using the pads of your three middle fingers, press down on your breast and armpit area. Use light, medium, and firm pressure to feel for things like lumps, hardened knots, or other changes.
- In front of a mirror: With your arms at your side, give your breasts a close look. Next, raise your arms overhead. Look for any changes, swelling, or dimpling of skin, or changes in your nipples.
- While lying down: Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. With your left hand, move the pads of your three middle fingers around your breast. Like in the shower, use light, medium, and firm pressure to feel for things like lumps, hardened knots, or other changes. Then, switch sides.
Reach out to your doctor immediately if you notice any changes.
What are the initial symptoms of breast cancer?
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass on the breast. That’s why it’s extremely important to schedule your yearly mammograms and complete routine self-exams. Other symptoms to look out for are:
- Swelling of your breast
- Skin dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple turning inward
- Red, dry, flaking or thickened skin on your breast or nipple
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes — around your armpits or collarbone
Do not hesitate to call your provider immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Early intervention is key to keeping you as healthy as possible.
Can breast cancer be detected early?
Yes. Routine mammograms can detect abnormalities several months or even years before a lump is felt by hand. Make your health a priority and take advantage of early detection screenings.
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Call to schedule yours or use our online scheduling tool in the Pittsburgh or Erie regions.
Greater Pittsburgh Region
Grove City, PA
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