• Diagnosis

    Early detection gives you the best chance for a positive outcome. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 97 percent, and annual survival rates continue to rise.

    If breast cancer is suspected, there are a number of diagnostic tools and tests available to confirm the condition or rule it out.

    Monthly Self-Exams

    Getting familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts will help you quickly detect changes. If you feel something different, schedule an appointment with your doctor. According to the American Cancer Society, four out of five lumps turn out not to be cancer.


    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mammograms are one of the best ways to identify breast cancer early, when it can be more effectively treated. Mammography is an x-ray breast exam to identify possible breast tissue abnormalities.

    Many women have questions about what to expect when scheduling a mammogram and what their results may mean. That’s why we’re sharing the answers to your most common questions:

  • When the X-ray is taken, the breast is compressed to get the most information and to reduce radiation. This may be uncomfortable but lasts only seconds. Compression also prevents motion that may result in the need for additional and/or repeat views. Please arrive 10-15 minutes before your appointment time and allow 30 minutes for the exam.

    Please don't wear underarm deodorant, powder or perfumes on your exam day. To minimize tenderness, avoid caffeine for several days before your mammogram, and time your appointment to minimize premenstrual tenderness. If your previous mammograms were not done by Anne Arundel Diagnostics, please have them sent to us so we can compare your old films with your current exam.  

    Many women may have lumps in their breasts. This is especially true in child-bearing years. Not all lumps are cancerous. However, since a lump in the breast may be due to breast cancer, it should be examined as soon as possible since early detection and early treatment deliver the most positive outcomes.

    As you age, breasts may develop calcium deposits. These calcifications can't always be felt. The majority of breast calcifications are not cancer. However, mammography can detect some specific patterns of breast calcifications that may be formed by cancer.

    Yes. Studies show that approximately 50 percent of breast cancer can be found first by mammography.

    Some breast cancers (8 to 10 percent) cannot be seen on mammography. Dense and lumpy tissue is difficult to penetrate adequately with mammography. The secondary signs of malignancy may be detected in these breasts, but some masses will be obscured. That is the reason it is so important to perform breast self-examinations and to see your physician for regular breast examinations. At Anne Arundel Diagnostics and Imaging we are fortunate to have 3-D mammography which helps see through dense breast tissue.

    If you feel a lump, have it examined by your physician. Sometimes a mass is removed or tissue is sampled to confirm it is not cancer. 

    We use a low-dose film-screen combination and state-of-the-art, dedicated mammography machines. There is no evidence that this is harmful to you.

    Yes. If you have implants, we will need extra views to see the tissue around the implant and to evaluate the implant itself.

    The two types of mammograms are diagnostic mammogram and screening mammogram. The diagnostic mammogram is more expensive and is usually done to evaluate an abnormality. The screening mammogram consists of two views of each breast and is usually scheduled on an annual or biannual basis for women without symptoms of a lump or discharge.

    The radiologist may not view the screening mammogram until after you leave. About 10 to 20 percent of the time, the radiologist sees an area that needs further evaluation. An extra mammogram is not cause for worry. It usually confirms a benign finding; however, it is important to follow through with these extra studies.

    We take as few films during each exam as possible. We also try to limit the number of exams. But each patient is different. Some may only need periodic exams; others should have them yearly. The radiation dose risk from annual mammography is extremely low, and it is much less dangerous than the risk of developing breast cancer.

    Technologists certified in mammography take the x-ray pictures. The radiologist, a specialist trained in the interpretation of breast x-rays, reads your mammogram. All of our breast radiologists receive updated yearly training to keep their skills current and have extensive experience. Once we read the mammogram, we send a report to your primary care physician. The contents of this report, together with the findings from your physical exam, will determine any next steps.

    The radiologist's report will arrive in your physician's office in several days. We will mail a letter summarizing your results directly to you within one week. If you have not received your results within one week, call your primary physician.

    All of our mammography machines are accredited by the American College of Radiology and certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means our equipment meets nationally-accepted quality assurance and safety guidelines. In addition, our breast center has been designated as a breast imaging center of excellence which requires meeting exceptionally high standards.  

    Yes—according to the current guidelines of the American Cancer Society. You should have a baseline mammogram by age 40, and an annual or every other year mammogram between ages 40 to 50. All women over age 50 should have an annual mammogram.  

  • Digital Mammograms

    Digital mammograms are mammograms that are stored in a computer, as opposed to film mammograms that are saved on hard files. We recommend digital mammograms for women who have dense breast tissue, are premenopausal, or are under age 50. Talk to your doctor about this option.

    Three-Dimensional (3D) Mammograms

    Anne Arundel Medical Center is the first in Annapolis to offer three-dimensional (3D) mammograms. With a 3-D mammogram, doctors can detect cancer earlier and can see it more clearly to determine its size, shape and location. They can also better identify cancer from harmless lumps or abnormalities. That means you’re less likely to need more testing if you don’t have cancer.

    Further Imaging

    If you’re among the less than 10 percent of patients who have abnormal breast screening results, you may need more imaging. This normally includes special mammogram views and/or ultrasound. Sometimes, an abnormality will require a needle aspiration or core biopsy. The radiologist will discuss this with you during your appointment.

    If you’re at high risk for developing breast cancer, we may add an MRI of the breasts to your screening program. The Fortney Breast Center offers a high-risk program to evaluate your level of risk and determine if this test is needed.

    If you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer, we may use MRI or PET/CT scans to help define the extent of disease.


    If breast imaging results are also abnormal, the radiologist will recommend a biopsy. The least invasive method is a guided needle biopsy. The method chosen depends on how the abnormality is best seen.

    Anne Arundel Diagnostics Breast Imaging Center offers:

    • MRI-guided core biopsy
    • Pre-surgical needle localization
    • Stereotactic core biopsy, which uses a mammogram image to guide the procedure
    • Ultrasound guided cyst aspiration and core biopsy

    Read additional information about biopsies.