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Mammograms are an important tool in your overall breast health. They can reveal problems before you have symptoms. They can detect breast cancer when it’s small and easier to treat.

Baystate’s highly trained team of radiology experts uses the latest digital equipment, including 3D mammography, to perform more than 60,000 mammograms a year.

Our experience – combined with the latest technology – means greater accuracy and peace of mind.

Most women should start screening mammograms at age 40. If you are at high risk due to family or personal history, your doctor may recommend that you begin regular screenings before age 40. Once you begin, you should expect to have a mammogram at least every one to two years.


A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. It can show potential problems – such as a breast lump, a cyst (fluid filled sac), or a build-up of calcium or fatty cells – before you or your doctor can feel them.

Like all X-rays, mammograms give off very low doses of radiation. But the benefits of mammography are much greater than the potential harm.

There are two kinds of mammograms:

  1. Screening mammograms typically include two views of each breast taken from different angles. Mammograms are the only proven method for finding certain types of abnormal growths in the breasts. Five to 15 percent of women will need a follow-up exam or biopsy after a mammogram.
  2. Diagnostic mammograms are used to look for signs of breast cancer when you have symptoms – such as a lump, pain, or nipple discharge – or when your doctor sees suspicious results on a screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammograms are typically more detailed than screening mammograms.

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What is digital mammography?

Digital mammography is the standard in care today. It produces clear, accurate X-rays in the form of digital files.

Digital mammograms have been shown to better detect breast cancer in women who are under age 50, have dense breast tissue, or are nearing menopause. They also make it easier to confidentially store and share mammogram results for consultation among breast surgeons and radiologists.

In addition to digital mammography, Baystate uses a sophisticated computer-aided (CAD) program to help us interpret your mammogram. This software allows our radiologists to mark potential concern spots, which may be reviewed again in follow-up exams.

When is 3D mammography used?

A 3D mammogram (also called breast tomosynthesis or "tomo") is a type of digital mammogram. It uses the same X-rays as standard 2D mammograms and it’s done in a similar way: your breast is compressed between two plates.

Unlike 2D mammograms, which take images only from the front and side, 3D mammograms take images, or "slices," of your breast from many different angles. This creates a 3D picture of your breast.

While 3D mammography may sound like an “upgrade” from 2D mammography, it’s not right for every case. It can be useful for assessing the size of a cancerous growth, or for screening breasts that are particularly dense.

3D mammograms are not covered by every insurance plan and they are not necessary for every screening. We’ll discuss your options with you.

What to expect during a mammogram

You’ll be asked to remove your shirt and bra, and then put on a gown. A specially trained technician will place your breast on the mammography machine platform.

The tech will adjust the machine to gently compress (flatten) 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 to help reveal any abnormal spots
  • Helps lower the X-ray dose
  • Keeps your breast still so we can get more accurate pictures and less blurriness

Your technician 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 20 minutes, with only a few seconds of compression.

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