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Mammography is a key tool for helping your physician to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

We use state-of-the-art digital mammography equipment, which has been shown to better detect breast cancer in younger women (under age 50), those with dense breast tissue, and those nearing menopause. Our compassionate, highly trained radiology team performs more than 60,000 digital mammograms a year.

When do I need a mammogram screening?

National health organizations have yet to come to an agreement on when women should begin mammogram screenings. At Baystate Health, we begin screening women annually at age 40. Your doctor may recommend screenings earlier than age 40 depending on your individual risk factors.

There is strong evidence that indicates screening mammography reduces the risk of death from breast cancer [link to breast cancer page under cancer] by at least 29 percent. In our region, 18 percent of the cancers detected through screening mammograms were found in women ages 40 to 49, further solidifying our belief that mammograms should begin at age 40.

What is a digital mammogram?

Digital mammography is a type of imaging that uses low-dose X-rays to capture clear, accurate breast images on a computer screen or special film.

Mammograms are important because they can detect early stage breast cancer, even if you have no symptoms. They can even find changes in your breasts up to two years before you or your physician would be able to feel these changes (such as a lump).

Mammograms are also used in detecting and diagnosing women with a lump, pain, or nipple discharge.

Our digital mammography technology

Our team uses the Selenia™ digital system, manufactured by Hologic, which provides high-resolution images in excellent clarity and detail. This technology represents a major advancement in breast imaging technology in our area.

We also use a sophisticated computer-aided (CAD) program to interpret your mammogram. This software allows our radiologists to mark potential concern spots, which are then reviewed again to determine if further evaluation is needed. CAD programs have been shown to significantly improve the accuracy of breast cancer detection.

Mammogram benefits and limitations

Mammograms are the only proven method for detecting certain types of abnormal growths in the breasts. Because they can detect very small growths, they can catch breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

While a mammogram uses radiation, no radiation will remain in your body after the exam and you should not experience any side effects. We take extra care to use the lowest radiation dose possible.

Most mammograms find that breast tissue is normal. Five to 15 percent of women who receive a mammogram will require a follow-up exam or biopsy for further evaluation.

While mammograms are the best tool for detecting breast cancer, they do not detect all breast cancers.

Our computerized tracking program

If you have had a mammogram at one of our facilities, your information will be entered into a secure, computerized tracking system. Our tracking staff will follow up with you as needed and periodically will review the data we collect from our patients and compare it to national standards.

How to prepare for a mammogram

Before scheduling your mammogram, talk to your doctor about:

  • Any changes you have noticed in your breasts
  • Prior surgeries
  • Hormone use
  • Family history of breast cancer

If possible, try to schedule your exam about a week after your period. Always tell your doctor or technologist if you could be pregnant.

Your health care team will provide detailed instructions prior to your mammogram. In general:

  • Do not wear deodorant, lotion or powder under your arms or on your breasts the day of the exam.
  • Bring any prior mammogram images to your exam for your radiologist to review.
  • After your exam, ask when your results will be available. Someone from our team will call you if your results are abnormal.

What to expect during a mammogram

During your mammogram, a specially trained technologist will place your breast on the mammography machine platform. The technologist will adjust the machine to gently compress your breast with a paddle. You may feel discomfort, but the exam should not be painful. Compression is important because it:

  • Evens out your breast thickness for better visibility of any abnormal spots
  • Lowers the X-ray dose
  • Keeps your breast still for more accurate pictures and less blurring
  • Your technologist will take two images of each breast: a top-to-bottom view and a side view. You will be asked to stand still for a few seconds while each picture is taken.
  • The entire exam should last about 30 minutes.

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