No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s important to stay on top of your breast health.
A healthy lifestyle, regular breast self-exams and routine mammograms all play a role in maintaining breast health.
It’s also important to know what’s normal for you and keep your provider informed about any changes in your breasts. Sometimes breast changes can signal cancer, but often, changes are caused by injuries, infections, hormonal changes, or noncancerous (benign) conditions (e.g., hyperplasia, cysts, fibroadenomas, intraductal papillomas).
Screening tests can help identify suspicious growths before any noticeable symptoms — and early detection of breast cancer greatly improves outcomes. Lakewood offers a variety of breast imaging services and our imaging tools, including annual screening mammograms (no provider order needed), are designed to detect cancer and provide a clear picture of your unique needs.
Contact us if you have any questions about breast health!
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast, and the single most effective method of early breast cancer detection. It can help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages — before physical symptoms develop — by locating tumors that are too small or too deep to be found by breast examination.
Mammograms help save lives by detecting cancer early. Mammograms can also help improve the chances of breast conservation and prevent the need for extensive treatment of advanced cancers.
3D mammography is the latest technology that helps radiologists identify and characterize individual breast structures without the confusion of overlapping tissue.
3D mammography is a revolutionary new screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection that can be done in conjunction with a traditional 2D digital mammogram. During the 3D part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over your breast, taking multiple breast images. Then, a computer produces a 3D image of your breast tissue in one-millimeter slices, providing greater visibility for the radiologist to see breast detail in a way never before possible.
They can scroll through images of your entire breast like pages of a book. In this way, 3D mammography finds cancers missed with conventional 2D mammography. It also means there is less chance your provider will call you back later for a second look, because now they can see breast tissue more clearly. 3D mammography makes it easier for doctors to catch breast cancer early, reduces the chances of a false positive result, and is especially helpful for women with dense breast tissue.
What to Expect During a Mammogram
From checking in to leaving the facility, the entire process of getting a mammogram typically takes about 30 minutes. During a mammogram, the breast is placed on a flat support plate and compressed with a parallel plate called a paddle. This evens out the tissue and the thickness of the breast so the mammography unit can get a clear picture of the breast.
Everyone experiences mammograms differently. Some people feel nothing at all, while others are more sensitive. You can make your mammogram more comfortable by scheduling your appointment after your menstrual cycle has completed and avoiding caffeine.
Before Your Appointment
- We require that you see your primary care provider before scheduling a mammogram.
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) and other specialty organizations recommend that, prior to scheduling a mammogram you discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your provider. In addition, inform them of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer.
- Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram is one week following your period. Always inform your provider or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility you are pregnant.
- Do not wear deodorant, talcum powder or lotion under your arms or on your breasts on the day of the exam. These can appear on the mammogram as calcium spots.
- Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam.
- Obtain records of prior mammograms if they were performed at another facility and make them available to the radiologist at the time of the current exam.
- Ask when your results will be available; do not assume the results are normal if you do not hear from your provider or the mammography facility.
According to the American Cancer Society, early detection exams for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year. If everyone took advantage of these tests, thousands more could be saved.
Accredited through the American College of Radiology (ACR), our mammography department truly cares about the health of you and your breasts. Our mammography team consists of registered mammography and registered ultrasound technologists to give you the quality of service you’re expecting and the confidence and support you desire. At Lakewood Health System, a dedicated Women’s Health team including our on-staff Breast Health Navigator supports the mammography team.
Screening vs. Diagnostic Mammogram
A screening mammogram differs from a diagnostic one. A screening mammogram checks for breast cancer in a woman who shows no signs or symptoms of the illness. A diagnostic mammogram is used to check for breast cancer in a woman who has a lump, symptoms of disease, or is identified as high risk.
Are 3D Mammograms Safe?
Modern-day mammography involves a tiny amount of radiation exposure, even less than a standard chest X-ray. While repeated X-rays can increase the risk of breast cancer over time, the risk is very small. Studies show the benefits of receiving a mammogram outweigh the risks of radiation exposure for most women.
When should I get a mammogram?
The decision about when and how often to get a mammogram is a personal choice you should make after talking with your doctor.
A mammogram is recommended annually for women starting at age 40 and then every two years from ages 50-74. Women at high risk for breast cancer should begin screening earlier. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often you should get screened. No matter what age you are, by doing a regular breast exam, you may be able to notice a variety of changes in the composition of your breasts, breast tissue or surrounding breast area including:
- A lump, hard knot or thickening
- Swelling or warmth in part of the breast
- Changes in the size or shape
- Skin irritation, redness or dimpling/puckering of the skin
- Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- Redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin
- Lump in the underarm area
- New pain in one spot that does not go away
Because we want it to be as convenient as possible for you to take better care of yourself, we have extended our Monday hours from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. After you have had your breast exam from your medical provider, simply call the radiology department and tell them you want an appointment on Mammography Monday. It is important to note we require you see your primary care provider before scheduling a mammogram. If the convenience of Mammography Mondays sounds right for you, please talk to your provider today.
A breast ultrasound may be used to obtain views of suspicious breast tissue.
For people with dense breasts, whole breast ultrasound is a supplementary ultrasound examination of both breasts that can find small cancers that mammography may miss.
MRI uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer that produces detailed, cross-sectional pictures of tissue inside the breast. MRI is useful for those whose dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect abnormalities with a mammogram.
If your breast imaging test reveals an abnormality, your provider may recommend a breast biopsy. A breast biopsy is a procedure performed by a radiologist or surgeon to sample abnormal breast tissue for laboratory analysis. It is the only way to determine if an abnormality is benign or cancerous. Most breast biopsies in the U.S. are not cancerous.
There are several different kinds of breast biopsies. The type your doctor recommends depends on the size, location and abnormality detected. After your biopsy, we’ll contact you to review your results. If the biopsy results are positive, you’ll receive more detailed next steps. (MyChart may show pathology results earlier, before a clinician has a chance to review them with you).
Lakewood Health System offers an on-staff Breast Health Navigator, available as a resource for a variety of breast health information, tools and support. Our Breast Health Navigator offers the following support:
- A resource to help you navigate through your personal healthcare experience.
- A regional resource for other organizations and healthcare facilities to work together to proactively help women who deal with breast cancer to navigate the healthcare system, no matter where they may live or receive care.
- To deliver educational material and outreach to the female populations we serve.
- To help family caregivers take care of their loved ones and themselves by providing them with the resources to do so.
Don’t let cost be an excuse for not taking care of yourself. Lakewood Health System is a SAGE provider. SAGE offers free screenings and follow-up to uninsured or underinsured women. The Sage Screening Program (formerly the Minnesota Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program) is a statewide comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screening program whose primary objective is to increase the proportion of age-appropriate women who are screened for breast and cervical cancer. SAGE focuses on:
- Providing free screening and follow-up services to uninsured and underinsured women
- Reaching out to women who may not have regular health care providers
- Educating the public about the importance of screening
- Raising awareness among health professionals
- Developing statewide partnerships to promote screening
If you have questions about the SAGE program, eligibility, etc., contact the Lakewood Health System Business Office: 218-894-8328
Lakewood Health System has three certified breast prosthetic fitters available to assist patients who have gone through a mastectomy. Our fitters have completed the necessary training to be able to provide patients with an assessment, treatment plan, implementation, and follow-up for those using external breast prostheses, bras, and other post-mastectomy services.
Breast prosthetic products are also available at Lakewood’s Medical Marketplace. Fitting services are available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. by appointment. To learn more or make an appointment, call 218-894-8567.