If you’re due for a mammogram, it’s important that you choose the facility wisely.
Getting the most accurate mammogram results possible is important. That’s because the earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. Women should begin getting annual screening mammograms at age 40.
When deciding where to get your mammogram, be sure to ask these five questions before you schedule an appointment.
Can the facility provide a mammogram safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem like a good idea to postpone mammograms and other cancer screenings. But getting regular screenings is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against cancer.
“We know that delays in screening, diagnosis and treatment make it harder to treat cancer successfully,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “The bottom line is, you are much less likely to die from COVID-19 than you are from a breast cancer that is detected in its late stages, when it is less likely to respond to treatment.”
To ensure our patients’ safety, MD Anderson has extensive precautions and processes in place to protect patients who come to our campuses. This includes screening everyone who comes on our campuses for COVID-19 and asking everyone to wear a medical-grade face mask.
“Our patients are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 infection because cancer treatment and the disease itself takes a toll on their immune system,” says Bevers. “So we go well beyond basic safety precautions to protect our patients and our staff.”
Do they specialize in mammograms?
Choose a facility with staff that focuses only on breast imaging. That means that the people doing the exam and reading the results are specially trained in that area, and they are experts in breast cancer detection.
This may seem obvious. But some diagnostic centers don't specialize in any specific test. Or they don't have radiologists who specialize in breast imaging.
“Radiologists who are fellowship-trained in breast imaging are best equipped to spot problems that may call for more testing,” says Marion Scoggins, M.D., a Breast Imaging radiologist. “They are more likely to give you an accurate result.”
Do they offer 3D mammography?
Any woman who needs breast screening should choose a provider who offers 3D mammography. This type of mammogram offers more detailed images than traditional 2D mammography.
Using 3D mammography makes it easier for doctors to catch breast cancer early. It also helps catch more cancers.
And it can reduce the likelihood of a false positive, because the picture is more detailed. A false-positive result is when your screening exam shows there is a problem when there is not. A false-positive result can trigger unnecessary additional testing and stress.
All of the screening mammography equipment at MD Anderson has 3D mammography capability.
“If a provider offers 3D mammography, it suggests that they are staying up with emerging technology,” says Scoggins.
Do they provide follow-up testing if your mammogram results are abnormal?
About 10% of women who get a screening mammogram will be called back for more tests. If you do need more tests, you will save time and effort if that facility can provide the follow-up diagnostic mammogram or breast ultrasound.
"If the facility only does screening mammograms, you will have to go somewhere else for more tests if your mammogram is abnormal," says Scoggins. “That could mean a delay in diagnosis, which could possibly delay treatment, if it is needed.”
MD Anderson offers follow-up testing in our Undiagnosed Breast Clinic. Our specialists will do a thorough exam, coordinate any testing that’s needed and talk with you about available results the same day.
Are they accredited by the American College of Radiology as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence?
If a center has achieved this status, they meet the highest standards in every aspect of breast imaging.
"The American College of Radiology process is rigorous and it's voluntary," says Scoggins. You can search for accredited facilities in your area. All MD Andersonlocations that provide breast imaging are centers of excellence.
Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration regulates all facilities that perform mammograms. These facilities must meet the minimum requirements of quality and safety outlined in the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA). So, anywhere you get your mammogram will meet basic standards of care.
But by asking questions and doing some research about a facility up front, you can increase your chances of getting a mammogram that yields the most accurate results.