Five Things You May Be Surprised to Know When It Comes to Your Mammogram

1. You Do Not Have to Have an Order from Your Doctor for a Screening Mammogram

Did you know an order (also called a referral) from your doctor is not required for a screening mammogram at all imaging facilities? It is left up to the individual hospital or imaging facility whether or not they want to require one. At Women’s Imaging Specialists, women aged 40 and older who are not experiencing symptoms can make an appointment for their annual screening mammogram on their own.  Although an order from your physician is not required, Women’s Imaging Specialists recommends that all women have an annual physical and female health screening with their primary care physician and/or Ob/Gyn to help reduce their overall risk of disease.

2. You Can Have a Baseline Mammogram Beginning at Age 35

Women are allowed one baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 – 39. A baseline is your first routine mammogram and establishes a ‘baseline’ image of the breast tissue. These images are used as a reference for future mammograms. They can help a radiologist detect any future changes in the breast tissue that may indicate the presence of cancer. A baseline mammogram is not to replace a diagnostic mammogram if you are experiencing a breast issue or concern at any age. It is important to call your physician’s office immediately if you think you are experiencing a symptom of breast cancer.

3. A Mammogram Should Not Cause Pain

 One of the most common misconceptions and top reasons why women put off having their first screening is the fear of pain. During a mammogram, compression is used to help spread out the tissue of the breast. This allows the radiologist to see through the tissue and detect abnormalities. For some women, they feel nothing. For other women, this compression can cause slight discomfort or a feeling of pressure, but it should not cause pain. Women’s Imaging Specialists makes every effort to ensure that patients feel comfortable and well cared for during their exam. To help with this, we use a unique comfort paddle that allows compression to be more evenly and gently distributed across the breast resulting in a more pleasant mammogram experience.  

4. If You Are Called Back After Your Mammogram, it Does NOT Automatically Mean You Have Breast Cancer

Being called back after a screening mammogram is not uncommon but can be a very scary experience. If you were asked to come back, it means that the radiologist needs additional diagnostic images to make a complete evaluation.  You will likely have another mammogram but this time it will be a diagnostic mammogram where more images will be taken. You may also have a breast ultrasound.  It is important to remember that being called back does NOT automatically mean that you have breast cancer. In fact, less than 10% of women who are called back after their screening mammogram are diagnosed with breast cancer.

If not breast cancer, what is it?  Calcifications (calcium deposits), cysts, and enlarged lymph nodes are all examples of non-cancerous or pre-cancerous findings that can be diagnosed during your appointment.  Some of these findings are normal and you will be told to return to your regular annual mammogram schedule. Others may have the potential to turn into breast cancer and the radiologist will want to continue to monitor with a 3 or 6 month follow-up. In some cases, you may be referred for further testing such as a biopsy or MRI.

5. You Have a Choice

Often times your physician will refer you to the breast imaging provider they are most familiar with, such as a hospital.  However, where you go for your breast health is ultimately your decision. This is why imaging orders are ‘universal’ and can be used at any imaging center. There a many important factors you should consider when determining where to go.

Insurance and Cost – It is important to choose an imaging facility that accepts your specific insurance plan. Most insurance plans will cover an annual screening mammogram at 100% of the cost. However, diagnostic imaging can sometimes go towards your deductible. It’s important to understand how much you will have to pay out of pocket. The out-of-pocket cost will vary depending on where you choose to have your imaging. Women’s Imaging Specialist’s accepts most insurance plans including Medicaid and Medicare and will help you to better understand your responsibility by providing you an estimate of your out-of-pocket cost. Self-pay rates are available for those without insurance. Care Credit and payment plans are also available.

Convenience – For most women, life is busy. Which means, the more convenient the better! Your time is important to us, that is why Women’s Imaging Specialists offers 12 convenient locations in Georgia and 2 in Alabama, walk-in and same day appointments when available, online scheduling and paperwork, and our average screening appointment is only 30 minutes!

Patient Care – Finding an imaging facility that centers itself around patient care and overall experience can be difficult. Women’s Imaging Specialists strives to make a difference in the lives of our patients and our community by providing compassionate, individualized, and ethical care. We are proud to have over one thousand 5-star patient reviews and invite you to come experience the difference!