Mammography and Breast Imaging

Mammography and Breast Imaging

Mammography and Breast Imaging

Screening Mammograms

In a screening mammogram, two standard views of each breast are taken to detect lumps too small or too deep to feel. During the procedure, an X-ray machine sends a small amount of radiation through your breasts to produce images that are later examined by a board-certified breast imaging radiologist.*

If you are age 40 or older, discuss having an annual screening mammogram done with your physician. If you are at a higher risk for breast cancer, talk with your healthcare provider about whether to have screening mammograms before age 40.

Diagnostic mammograms

A diagnostic mammogram is performed if there is a symptom, family history or finding on a screening mammogram. The goal is to use extra views to pinpoint the exact size and location of a breast abnormality and to image the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. Diagnostic mammograms require a physician's referral.

In many cases, diagnostic mammography will help indicate if the abnormality is benign (non-cancerous). However, if an abnormality is suspicious, additional breast imaging—such as a breast MRI or breast ultrasound—or a biopsy may be ordered. A biopsy is the only definitive way to determine whether a person has breast cancer.

Comprehensive breast imaging services

In addition to screening mammography, Northwestern Medicine offers a full range of diagnostic breast imaging services, including:

On the day of your breast exam

  • Wear a two-piece outfit since you’ll need to remove your top for the test.
  • Do not use deodorant, perfume, powder, creams or lotions on your breast or underarm area. Residue from the products may interfere with mammogram results.
  • Plan to arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time.
  • Bring your most recent previous mammogram to your appointment for comparison with new pictures, as the radiologist looks for changes in breast tissue.
  • Tell the technologist if you have implants or any pain, lumps or nipple discharge.
  • Depending on the view of your breast to be taken, you will be asked to sit or stand. Some women may experience slight discomfort, but the procedure is not harmful and will not damage breast tissue.

If your breast exam results in a diagnosis that requires treatment, Northwestern Medicine offers comprehensive care and support to help you achieve the best outcome. You’ll have services to help you heal in body, mind and spirit.

Mammography/Breast Imaging Authorization Form

In order for our radiologists to complete the reading of your mammography exam, we will need your prior outside mammography/breast images and reports to include the last 5 years. This should include reports and images on film/CD (original analog films or digital images on CD). Reports should include mammography exam reports and pathology reports of any breast procedures done (biopsies, needle localizations, cyst aspirations, breast surgeries, etc.)

Please complete an Authorization Form for each of the facilities where you have had your prior mammography/breast imaging. It is crucial for you to send the completed form to the facility/facilities right away so that they can send us the requested information before your scheduled exam date. Failure to send the completed authorization form and prior imaging will result in a delay in getting your results from your mammography exam.

If you need help completing the form or have any questions/concerns, please contact your location's film library:

Locations & Contact Information

    In the spirit of keeping you well-informed, some of the physician(s) and/or individual(s) identified are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. They have selected our facilities as places where they want to treat and care for their private patients.