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Women's Services

What is a mammogram and how is it performed?

What is a mammogram?
A mammogram is a safe, effective, low-dose X-ray procedure used to evaluate breast tissue. A screening mammogram can detect extremely small breast cancers that are too small to discover through breast self-examination or even through clinical breast examination. Diagnostic mammograms take additional X-rays for further study and are prescribed by your physician.

How is a mammogram performed?
The mammogram is a simple procedure that takes 10 to 20 minutes. Here is what will happen:

   When you arrive... You will be greeted by a staff member who will ask you several questions for registration. Please bring your insurance card and your doctor's name and address with you.

   Taking X-rays... A female radiologic technologist will position your breast on the machine so it is firmly compressed. This flattens the breast so all the tissue can be seen. The amount of discomfort is minimal but varies with each individual. A screening mammogram will X-ray each breast from above and from the side. Radiologists at St. Luke's Hospital will read all films.

Who should receive a mammogram?
The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. The American Cancer Society offers the following guidelines for early detection:

Age 40 and over:

  • Annual screening mammogram
  • Annual clinical breast exam by a doctor or nurse (this exam should be done near the time of the mammogram)
  • Monthly breast self-examination

Age 20-39:

  • Clinical breast exam by a doctor or nurse every three years
  • Monthly breast self-examination

If you have a family history of breast cancer, discuss mammography screening guidelines and scheduling with your personal physician.

Why do I need a mammogram?
Mammograms should be a part of every woman's preventive health routine. Along with exercise, nutrition and an annual physical, monthly breast exams and annual mammograms are important for maintaining good health.

What other resources are available to me?
St. Luke's Women's Center information line at 314-205-6654 can direct you to numerous wellness programs and services including cardiology, mammography, bone density testing, maternity services, physician referral and more.