From the time you make a mammogram appointment to the time you get the results, you should understand what is happening and be sure that your questions are answered. The more you know, the better you can care for your own breast health.
What if I have breast implants?
When you call your facility to schedule a mammogram, tell them that you have breast implants. If your facility doesn't accept patients with implants, ask if they can give you the name of a facility that does. When you arrive for the exam, remind facility staff you have implants and will need a technologist trained in x-raying patients with implants. This is important because breast implants can hide some breast tissue, which could make it difficult for the radiologist to see breast cancer when looking at your mammograms. If the technologist taking your mammograms knows you have implants before performing the exam, she will make sure that as much breast tissue as possible can be seen on your mammograms.
How will I get the results of my mammogram?
Your facility will give you the results of your mammogram in easy-to-understand language. It will give you these results at the time of your appointment or may choose to mail the results. If mailed, the letter containing your results must be sent within 30 days of your mammogram. The facility also will send your doctor a medical report of your mammogram results.
I thought "no news was good news." Wouldn't my doctor let me know if there was a problem?
Although the results of most mammograms are normal, don't assume that no news means that there are no problems. It is very important that you get the results of your mammogram. If you don't receive them within 30 days of your mammogram, call your mammography facility or doctor and ask for them.
If I don't have a doctor, who receives the medical version of my report?
In this case, your facility will send you both reports of your mammogram results--the version in easy-to-understand language and the medical version. If your facility thinks you should see a doctor, its staff will let you know and can recommend one.
If I change facilities or need a second opinion, do I need my mammograms?
Good question! The answer is yes, but be sure they are originals--not copies. By law, you are entitled to your original mammograms. A doctor needs to compare past mammograms with current ones to see if there have been any changes, and original mammograms are needed for this comparison. Ask your facility for your original mammograms and for a copy of the medical version of your report. You will probably be asked to fill out a form to release your medical records. You can ask the facility to send your records to another medical facility, to your doctor, or to you. Your facility may charge a fee for this service. If they do, the fee must not be more than the cost of providing this service to you.
I am on a regular schedule for mammograms and I do monthly breast self-exams. What if I notice a change in my breasts?
Although mammograms are very effective, they don't find all breast problems. If you find something unusual in either breast during your monthly breast self-exam (such as a lump, a thickening, or discharge from a nipple), call your doctor immediately. When checked, many breast changes are not cancerous--but only your doctor can know for sure.
What if I have a concern about my exam or facility?
If you have a concern about your exam or facility that you think could affect your health, follow these steps:
- Talk with a facility staff person. If he or she can't help you, you will be told who on their staff can address your concerns.
- If the facility cannot resolve your concerns, ask for the name, address, fax number, e-mail address, or phone number of the contact person at your facility's accreditation body to contact about your complaint. Be sure to provide them with your name, address, and phone number. (Note: The American College of Radiology requests that all complaints to them be in writing; State accrediting bodies will also accept phone calls.) The name of the accreditation body is on the MQSA certificate displayed at your facility.
- If your facility's accreditation body doesn't resolve your concerns, write to FDA at:
Center for Devices and Radiological Health
Office of Health and Industry Programs
Division of Mammography Quality and Radiation Programs
Rockville, Maryland 20850
Or call 1-800-838-7715.