Types of Mammography Scans


There are two types of mammograms:

Screening Mammograms
Screening mammograms are used to detect breast cancer in women who have no apparent symptoms or signs of breast cancer and are considered at average risk for breast cancer.

A screening mammogram typically takes 10-15 minutes.

Diagnostic Mammograms
Diagnostic mammograms are used when there’s a sign of possible breast cancer, such as breast pain or discovery of a breast lump. It will also be used as a follow-up if there are suspicious results on a screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammograms may be recommended if you have a family history of breast cancer.

A diagnostic mammogram may take longer, because the technician will be taking more images.


Your baseline mammogram

Your first screening mammogram will be the baseline mammogram against which all future tests will be compared to look for changes in your breast tissue.

If a future screening mammogram shows something that needs more investigation, you will be scheduled for a follow-up diagnostic mammogram.


Your screening mammogram results

The EvergreenHealth Breast Health Center performs about 20,000 3-D screening mammograms every year. In about 10 percent (2,000) of those scans, our radiologists will see something that they want a closer look at.

You will be scheduled for a follow-up diagnostic mammogram to get additional views of the area in question. If warranted, a breast ultrasound will be taken. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you may get a breast MRI.

Of the 2,000 women who receive a follow-up diagnostic mammogram:

60 percent (1,200) are cleared with no findings. They return to a screening mammogram at their next scheduled mammography appointment.

20 percent (400) will be classified as “probably benign”. They will return in six months for another evaluation. If everything remains stable after two years of follow-up, they are considered benign and return to their regular schedule of screening mammograms.

20 percent (400) return a suspicious finding that needs a further look, so we recommend proceeding to a breast biopsy. A breast radiologist will explain what the diagnostic mammogram found, and why they recommend you have a breast biopsy.


I need a breast biopsy ... what happens now?

Once you are referred for a breast biopsy, a Breast Center nurse navigator steps in to manage your care.

Continue on to read about breast biopsies at EvergreenHealth