Mammography (Breast Imaging) at University of Colorado Hospital
Why Come to UCH for Breast Imaging/ Mammograms?
University of Colorado Hospital's Breast Imaging facility is dedicated to the early detection of breast cancer.
We are part of a collaborative, comprehensive breast care team within the Diane O’Connor Thompson Breast Center which, in turn, is part of the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region.
The highly skilled specialists on the breast care team join forces to design and deliver the best treatment plan for each woman. This team consists of breast imaging radiologists, medical and radiation oncologists, breast surgeons, pathologists, geneticists and a nurse navigator.
About Imaging Safety
Radiology facilities at University of Colorado Hospital make imaging safety our number one priority. We take every precaution necessary to make sure that you are safe during your imaging test or procedure.
How is Breast Imaging Used?
Screening mammography is an exam used for screening of asymptomatic women.
Written reports of the screening mammogram are provided to the referring physician and the patient a few days after the exam.
A diagnostic mammogram is used to evaluate problematic areas detected in a screening mammogram or for patients presenting with signs or symptoms of breast disease such as a lump, nipple discharge or skin changes.
Ultrasound helps characterize breast masses. It is often used in conjunction with a diagnostic evaluation.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI is a supplemental diagnostic tool that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create a cross-sectional, three dimensional image of the breasts.
Needle Core Biopsies
- Stereotactic – an incisional biopsy using mammogram guidance to sample breast abnormalities, most often calcifications
- Ultrasound Guided – an incisional biopsy using ultrasound guidance to sample abnormalities – most often masses
- MRI Guided – in incisional biopsy using MRI guidance to sample breast abnormalities seen by MRI
Your Breast Imaging (Mammography) Appointment
Download our Screening Mammography patient printout
Download our Diagnostic Mammography patient printout
How do I get ready for a mammogram?
- Take a shower or bath before the mammogram. Do not put deodorant, powder, lotion, or perfume on your breasts or under your arms. Doing this may cause the mammogram pictures to turn out wrong.
- Wear a two-piece outfit like a shirt and pants or a skirt. For the mammogram, you will be asked to take off all your clothes from the waist up. Do not wear any jewelry around your neck.
- Call your caregiver if you cannot come to your mammogram appointment on time. You should also call the caregiver if you have questions or concerns about the mammogram.
- Bring a list of the dates and places of your past mammograms and other breast tests or treatments.
How is a mammogram done?
Two x-rays are usually done for each breast, one top view and one side view. If you have breast implants or breast problems, more x-rays may need to done. A regular mammogram usually takes about 20 minutes.
- You will be given a hospital gown. Take off all your clothes from the waist up. Wear the hospital gown so that it opens in the front.
- Tell the person doing the mammogram if you have breast implants. Tell them about any breast problems or changes before you have the mammogram. Tell them if you are nervous, scared, or upset about having a mammogram. The person may ask if you take hormone medicine, have family members with breast cancer, and other questions.
- You will sit or stand next to a small x-ray table. The caregiver doing the test will help you place one of your breasts on the x-ray plate. Your breast will be moved until the correct position has been found.
- Your breast will be gently flattened between two plastic plates for a few seconds. Having your breasts spread flat and wide helps your caregiver take the best mammogram picture. This makes it easier for them to see if there are any problems in your breasts. Your breasts will be flattened only long enough to get an x-ray picture. You may feel uncomfortable while your breasts are flattened.
- You will be asked to hold your breath while the x-ray is taken. Another x-ray will be taken of the same breast after the position of the x-ray machine has been changed.
- Your other breast will be x-rayed the same way.
What if I have large or tender breasts?
Request the new Mammopad®, a soft foam breast cushion, to help relieve the discomfort of a mammogram.
It is important for your caregiver to know about your breast implants before you have your mammogram. Your caregiver may need to take extra x-rays of each breast. You may have four x-rays per breast, while a person without implants may only have two x-rays per breast. Special care will be taken during your x-rays so that your implants will not break. Your mammogram may take 20 to 30 minutes or longer.
You may have a mammogram even if you are breast feeding. Express as much milk as possible from your breasts before the mammogram.
If your breasts are tender before your monthly period, do not have a mammogram during this time. Schedule your mammogram to be done one week after your regular period.
What happens after my mammogram?
- Your breasts may feel tender for a short while after the mammogram. You may do all your regular activities right after the mammogram. Ask your caregiver when you should have another mammogram.
- Women 20 to 39 years old should have their breasts examined by a caregiver at least every three years. Women 40 years and older should have their breasts examined by a caregiver every year.
All women 20 years and older should do regular breast self-exams (BSE). Doing BSEs can help you learn what your breasts normally look and feel like. Knowing what is normal for your breasts can help you quickly know when breasts changes happen.
Breast changes may be swelling, lumps, or dimpling, scaling, and redness of the breast or nipple. Some other changes are pain, nipple discharge (that is not breast milk), and nipples that begin to pull inward. Call a caregiver right away if you have any breast changes that you think may not be normal. Do this even if you have just recently had a mammogram.
Ask your caregiver to give you information about how to do a BSE.
The Benefits of Advanced Technology
Breast Tomosynthesis 3D Mammography
UCH is one of the few places in Colorado to offer 3D mammography using Hologic Selenia Dimensions technology, which uses multiple low-dose images at multiple angles. This produces a series of one-millimeter slices to create a 3D reconstruction of the breast and increased visualization for detection of tissue anomalies.
Watch a video animation of the process.
Watch the video
Full Field Digital Mammography (FFDM)
We perform all breast exams at University of Colorado Hospital using digital mammography.
FFDM is a mammography system in which x-ray film is replaced by solid-state detectors that convert x-rays into electronic signals. These signals are used to produce images of the breast that can be seen on a computer screen.
Digital mammography offers these advantages:
- Lower radiation dose
- Fewer patient call backs for additional imaging
- Increased imaging contrast for breast implants and dense breasts
Computer-Aided Detection (CAD)
Our breast imagers interpret all mammograms with the assistance of our computer-aided detection (CAD) system, providing a computerized “double check” of your mammogram.
This computer software searches the digital mammogram for abnormal areas that may indicate the presence of cancer.
Additional Mammography Resources
UC Denver School of Medicine Radiology Department
Some Day just turned into Same Day!
Walk-in screening mammography appointments now available:
Mon - Fri, 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Anschutz Outpatient Pavilion, 3rd Floor
Confused about mammography recommendations? Read ours.