Mammograms Save Lives

Identifying Breast Cancer With a Mammogram

Mammograms are one of the best ways to detect breast cancer in its early stages before you can feel a lump or have any other symptoms. 

But what does a mammogram show? And how can you identify breast cancer by looking at an image? Let’s start at the beginning.

What does breast cancer look like on a mammogram?

A mammogram is a type of X-ray. It works by sending a low dose of radiation through your breast. Different types of body tissue block different amounts of radiation. The mammogram equipment collects any radiation that passes the whole way through your breast. The resulting image is a grayscale picture of the inside of your breast. 

Radiation passes through normal breast tissue easily, creating dark shapes on your mammogram image. Breast cancer tissue, on the other hand, blocks the radiation, resulting in white forms on the image. If you have abnormal white patches on your mammogram, it could be caused by a tumor. 

Woman in front of laptop worried about Mammogram interpretation for breast cancer - Maiden Lane Medical, Midtown, NY

Could the results be due to something else?

Yes, many women with dense breasts have potentially abnormal-looking mammograms. You have different types of tissue in your breast, including milk glands, milk ducts, supportive tissue, and fatty tissue. The milk glands, milk ducts, and supportive tissue are denser than the fatty tissue. If you have more dense breast tissue, your mammogram could show more “white” than a woman with less dense breasts. 

Who interprets mammograms?

A radiologist reads mammograms. Radiologists are medical doctors who have completed additional specialty training in diagnosing and treating diseases with medical imaging studies, including mammograms, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, nuclear medicine, and PET scans.

Doctor who in interprets mammograms for breast cancer - Maiden Lane Medical, Downtown, NY

Is that a different person than the one who takes the mammogram?

Yes. A specially trained technologist, also called a mammographer, takes the mammogram. They position your breasts on the equipment and operate the mammogram machine. 

What happens if you find possible breast cancer on a mammogram?

If our radiologist sees something that could be breast cancer, we call you to review your results and schedule additional testing. Depending on what the radiologist finds, we may recommend a diagnostic mammogram or a biopsy.

How is a diagnostic mammogram different than a screening mammogram?

A standard mammogram takes X-rays of your breast from two angles and only takes 10-15 minutes. A diagnostic mammogram involves several X-rays from multiple angles and can take much longer. 

Here at Maiden Lane Medical, we offer state-of-the-art 3D mammograms (3D tomosynthesis) and other advanced ultrasound services to create detailed images of the insides of your breast. A 3D mammogram takes multiple X-rays of your breasts, and the computer compiles them into a 3D model of your breast, providing significantly more detail about your breast tissue. 

If you need a biopsy, in most cases you have a needle aspiration. After thoroughly numbing your breast, your doctor uses ultrasound guidance to insert a hollow needle into the abnormal breast tissue. Then using suction, they extract a sample of cells through the needle. It’s a quick outpatient procedure, although your breast may be tender for a couple of days after the biopsy.

If you’re due for a mammogram or have any concerns about breast cancer, call our offices or schedule an appointment online today.

Medically Reviewed By

Faina Gelman-Nisanov, MD
Board Certified Gynecologist