With SMH Ambulatory Services Manager Carrie Kunda, BS, RT(R)(M)(ARRT)
There are several different types of imaging technology used for breast cancer screening. Which one is right for you? We asked a veteran mammography technologist to explain in this Ask An Expert Q&A post.
Q: When should I start having regular screening mammograms?
Sarasota Memorial's breast cancer team, along with experts at the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI), recommend that women receive a mammogram every year, starting at age 40. For women age 40 and older, getting an annual screening mammogram is the best way to catch the disease at an early stage, when it’s easier to treat, less aggressive and less likely to have spread. Early detection gives women a much better chance of surviving breast cancer, if it develops.
Q: What is the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?
Screening mammograms are routine screening tools designed to catch breast cancer at its earliest stages; these are recommended annually for women who do not have any breast cancer symptoms or concerns. A diagnostic mammogram is ordered when someone has a concerning symptom such as pain, a lump in the breast, nipple discharge or breast skin changes. During a diagnostic exam, radiologists use additional imaging and techniques, such as magnification views or spot compression, to focus on a specific area of concern that was found by you or your physician, or picked up on your routine screening exam.
Q: What is the difference between a 2D mammogram and a 3D mammogram (or tomosynthesis)?
A conventional 2D digital mammogram shows all the complexities of breast tissue in a single image. However, breast tissue sometimes overlaps, giving the illusion that normal breast tissue is abnormal. In these cases, a diagnostic mammogram is often required for follow-up. This is more common with women who have dense breast tissue.
The 3D mammogram technology provides more detail than the conventional 2D. By looking at the breast tissue in 1-millimeter “slices,” the radiologist can provide a more accurate assessment. This also reduces the chances of further imaging for a “second look,” as the breast tissue is seen more clearly. Breast tomosynthesis has also been shown to have higher cancer detection rates. Women who are getting a baseline screening, those who have dense breast tissue and those with a personal history of breast cancer should strongly consider 3D mammography over 2D.
Q: What happens if I have an abnormal screening mammogram? Would a biopsy be necessary?
If a screening mammogram finds an abnormality, you would be referred to the Sarasota Memorial Breast Health Center. The center offers advanced imaging services and procedures, along with a highly trained team of technologists, nurses and radiologists who all specialize in breast care.
You would then have a diagnostic mammogram and/or breast ultrasound at the Breast Health Center. If that imaging confirms an abnormality, a biopsy or further testing may be warranted. It is important to note that this progression of imaging studies before a biopsy is recommended. This ensures that the least invasive techniques are used first for follow-up.
Q: What can I do to prepare for my mammogram?
On the day of your mammogram, be sure NOT to wear any powders, lotions or deodorants as these products often contain ingredients that will be visible on the mammogram study and could affect results.
Q: Do I need a doctor’s order for a mammogram? How do I get scheduled?
Sarasota Memorial requires a physician’s order for a mammogram. If you need a physician, reach out to our Physician Referral Line at 941-917-7777.
Patients can receive a mammogram at any of our six screening locations across Sarasota and Manatee counties. To schedule yours, please call 941-917-7322.
Sarasota Memorial Ambulatory Services Manager Carrie Kunda, BS, RT (R)(M)(ARRT), has performed mammography for more than 15 years. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Carrie earned her radiology degree from Manatee Community College.
“Ask an Expert” is a Q&A series with Sarasota Memorial’s team of doctors, nurses and other health experts, where you can get thorough answers to your health and wellness queries from a local source you can trust. Have a question that you’d like to “Ask an Expert”? Email them to AskAnExpert@smh.com.