Screening and Diagnostic Mammograms

The annual screening mammogram usually includes taking two radiographic images of each breast, however, sometimes additional images are needed depending on individual patient circumstances. Additional views are always obtained in patients with implants to best evaluate the breast tissue.

Preparing for Your Mammogram

To avoid possible artifacts, we ask that you do not:

  • Apply deodorant, lotions, or powders on the day of your mammogram
  • If you are breastfeeding, it is best to schedule your screening mammogram for at least three months after you have stopped nursing

Diagnostic Mammogram

This study is customized to answer questions about findings seen on a screening mammogram.

  • Diagnostic mammograms are also performed in patients who have had recent breast cancer surgery
  • At the time of your appointment, additional mammographic views are performed with different types of compression or magnification of the area in question
  • Images reviewed in real time by the radiologist on site
  • In certain situations, an ultrasound may be performed at the same visit for a better evaluation
  • For suspicious findings, both you and your referring doctor will be informed at the time of the exam, and you will be scheduled for an additional short term follow up, biopsy, or surgical consultation as appropriate


Compression is an important part of obtaining a good mammogram; a lack of adequate compression may produce a mammogram that cannot be properly interpreted. The technologist will work with you to make it as comfortable as possible while still producing a good image.

Obtaining Your Previous Mammograms

  • If you have had a mammogram at another center, please arrange with that facility to get a CD, or (original) images, of your mammogram to bring with you the day of your exam or to mail to us ahead of time.

  • We will be happy to help you obtain your records and can provide you with a form that you will need to fill out so that the facility can release them. There may be a delay in interpreting your images if comparison studies are not available at the time of your appointment.

Call backs

  • The majority of women have normal screening mammograms. In some circumstances, patients are asked to come back for additional mammogram views and/or ultrasound. This does not mean that you have cancer or will require a biopsy, only that additional imaging is needed to evaluate an area. Our schedulers will call you to arrange an appointment for a diagnostic mammogram and/or ultrasound at the earliest opportunity.

  • Please remember that our schedulers may not be able to explain to you why we need you to return; they are acting on the radiologist’s request. When the work-up has been completed, we will inform you of the results before you leave the premises. If your previous films are not available, the results may be delayed.


  • We will send you a computerized letter indicating the results of your exam. If your previous mammogram is not available for comparison, your report may be delayed. We try to allow 10 working days for the arrival of mammograms from other institutions. If they have not arrived by that time, we may read your exam and send you a letter asking you to re-request your prior mammograms.

  • Mammography is not perfect; about 10 percent of cancers cannot be seen. If you have a lump, mass, or other specific problems related to your breasts, you should inform your primary doctor and make sure that you receive appropriate follow up care.

  • Breast Density Notification: Beginning on April 1, 2013, California legislation requires that all patients receiving a mammogram be notified if they have dense breast tissue. Dense breasts are normal. We have always reported breast density to your doctor, but are now mandated by the state to inform you as well. We encourage you to talk to your primary care provider about any further questions you may have. More information can also be found at

How to schedule your mammogram

  • Ask your primary care physician for a referral
  • Appointments are available in both Hillcrest and La Jolla for a routine screening mammogram
  • For a diagnostic mammogram, appointments are only available at UCSD Moores Cancer Center in La Jolla
  • Call us for an appointment at 619-543-3405