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Frequently Asked Questions

Monthly Breast Self-Examination

What is a breast self-exam? 

A breast self-exam is exactly what it sounds like; a procedure you use to examine your own breasts for lumps or changes. For an overview of the actual steps to follow, ask one of our technologists to provide personal instruction or to view a videotape.

What if I find a change in my breasts? 

The important thing is to contact your physician and have your breasts checked as soon as possible. Remember that even if you do find a change (lumps, dimpling, skin changes, nipple discharge), the chances of it being cancerous are small.

Yearly Physical Examination Performed by a Physician

What is a physical breast exam? 

A physical breast exam is a manual and visual examination of your breasts performed by your physician. A physical breast exam is painless and quick; your physician will simply check for any lumps or abnormalities in your breasts.

Mammography at Appropriate Intervals

What is mammography? 

Mammography is a simple, safe radiographic (x-ray) examination of the breast which produces images called mammograms.

Mammograms reveal both harmless and cancerous growths even when they are too small to be felt by you or your physician. A mammogram can show these growths up to two years before they can be felt. The great majority of lumps are harmless, but when cancer is present, mammography saves lives through early detection. Diagnosing breast cancer in its early stages provides for better treatment options and greater chances for recovery.

How well does mammography work? 

A mammogram is the most advanced, effective, accurate way to detect early breast cancer. However, about 10 percent of all breast cancers will not be identified by mammography alone—so monthly breast self-exams and physical exams by your physician are also recommended.

How safe is it? 

Very. UVMC's mammography centers have dedicated mammography equipment offering the lowest levels of radiation available. The benefits of early cancer detection far outweigh the very small risks associated with the low levels of radiation.

What is a screening mammogram? 

A screening mammogram is for you if you are 40 and over and are not experiencing any symptoms. When you visit one of our mammography centers for a screening mammogram, you will be greeted by one of our board-certified technologists who will perform routine views of each breast, as well as provide education on breast self-examination.

The American College of Radiology recommends a screening mammogram by age 40 and one every 1-2 years through age 49, with one every year beginning at age 50.

What is a diagnostic mammogram? 

A diagnostic mammogram is performed when a woman has identified any of the following symptoms:

  • Breast mass
  • Discharge
  • Continued isolated pain
  • Dimpling
  • Augmented/reconstructed/altered breast structure
  • An abnormal screening mammogram

When you visit one of our mammography centers for a diagnostic mammogram, a board-certified technologist will perform routine views of each breast as well as a special view with an area marker to identify the location of the physical finding. Also, if necessary, any additional views will be performed as well as other procedures, including ultrasound, at the time of the mammogram.

American Cancer Society Breast Health Guidelines

For women with no symptoms

  • Begin monthly self-exams by age 20
  • Ask your physician for a physical breast exam
  • Every three years from age 20 to 39
  • Every year beginning at age 40

Have routine mammography screenings

  • Begin by age 40
  • Every year or two from age 40 - 49
  • Every year beginning at age 50