Navigating the mammogram experience

Dr. Kinsey Pillsbury

Mammograms are a vital tool to help detect breast cancer and pave the way for potentially life-saving intervention. For some, mammograms can seem intimidating, but by engaging in mammograms early and often, you can find potential issues at their earliest, most treatable stages.

What is a Mammogram? Mammography uses X-ray technology to screen for signs of breast cancer. Some hospitals, including Barton Health, offer 3D mammograms, which have been shown to improve the cancer detection rates and lower false positive rates. Breast MRI and Contrast Enhanced Mammography (CEM) are additional cutting edge services offered at Barton, both of which are particularly useful in a subset of women, namely as supplemental screening options for women at higher than average risk for breast cancer and in the setting of a newly diagnosed cancer.

Annual mammograms help detect cancer earlier—when it is most treatable. Early intervention and timely treatment can lead to better outcomes and higher survival rates.

How to Schedule a Mammogram. Women should receive their mammography screening beginning at age 40 unless instructed otherwise by your provider. Your gynecologist, primary care provider, or certified nurse midwife can make a referral for a mammogram at an imaging facility that is convenient for you. During your annual wellness exam, discuss any concerns, medical history, and any breast-related symptoms you may be experiencing. Be sure to include any family history of breast cancer. Certain women may benefit from even earlier screening based on family history and other risk factors.

Insurance Tip. Contact your insurance provider to understand the specific coverage details including any copayments or deductibles you might be responsible for and make sure the facility accepts your insurance.

Prepare for Your Mammogram. On the day of your appointment, follow any instructions provided by the facility. This may include avoiding lotions, power, or deodorants. Wear a two-piece outfit for ease of undressing from the waist up. After registration, you may be provided with a gown for the procedure.

Imaging Process. An experienced technician will position your breasts one at a time between two plates attached to the mammography machine. The plates will compress to flatten the

breast tissue, which helps to capture clear images. This compression can be uncomfortable, but typically only lasts a few seconds.

Images to Insights. After the mammogram, a radiologist (a medical doctor specializing in medical imaging), will review your images and interpret the results. These results are sent to your healthcare provider, who will discuss them with you during a follow-up appointment.

Annual mammograms are recommended by the American College of Radiology beginning at age 40, and can provide peace of mind, knowing you are taking an active role in your breast health.

If you have concerns or fears about getting a mammogram, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help address concerns, provide guidance, and support you throughout the process. Taking care of your breast health is important, and mammograms are a vital tool in maintaining your well-being.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Kinsey Pillsbury is a fellowship-trained mammographer and Radiologist with Barton Medical Imaging. Dr. Pillsbury will host a free Wellness Webinar: “Mammography and Breast Cancer Awareness” on Thursday, October 12 at 5 p.m. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at Speak with your care team about scheduling your mammogram and visit to learn more.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.