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Early detection is the best defense against breast cancer, which is why nearly 40 million screening mammograms are performed each year in the United States. Screening mammograms remain the "gold standard" for detecting breast abnormalities before signs or symptoms of diseases or cancer occur.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a non-invasive breast exam used to detect abnormalities. During a mammogram, the mammography technologist will use specialized equipment to take low-dose X-rays of your breasts. A radiologist (doctor who uses medical imaging techniques to diagnosis and treat various conditions) will then review the images to identify any areas of concern.

What is digital 3D mammography?

At SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City, we use digital 3D tomosynthesis mammography (3D mammography). This is a revolutionary process allowing the radiologist to better distinguish irregularities. In traditional mammography, the details of the breast are viewed in one flat image. With the use of 3D mammography, the breast can be viewed in a series of layers. The layers of images can be viewed by radiologists as individual images or interactive animation, allowing fine details to be more visible and no longer hidden by the tissue above or below. The use of 3D mammography has proven to significantly reduce false positive callbacks and to be more accurate in detecting breast cancers early.

When should I have a screening mammogram?

Recommended screening guidelines are dependent on your health history and risk for developing breast cancer. Speak with your doctor to determine when you should start getting screening mammograms. Women of average breast cancer risk should start getting mammograms from ages 40-45 depending on their breast cancer risk. Regular screenings, which typically occur once a year, should continue as long as your doctor recommends.

The Women's Imaging Center at St. Mary's Hospital is designed by and for women. The comfort of the spa-like design takes the stress out of mammograms and other testing. The Women's Imaging Center offers one spot for your routine screening mammogram, diagnostic mammogram, diagnostic ultrasound, breast biopsies and bone density scans.

All breast imaging is conducted by registered mammography technologists, and images are interpreted by board certified radiologists the same day, so results are available within 24 hours.

You may schedule your annual screening mammogram at the Women's Imaging Center by calling 573-681-3181 or schedule at ssmhealth.com.

Stephanie Pettitt is the lead mammography technologist at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital.

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