Get better, faster mammograms at Allen Hospital | Waterloo IA

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Mammograms

When it comes to breast health, early detection is the best prevention. Women should have regular mammograms beginning at age 40, or sooner if recommended by their healthcare provider. Allen Hospital uses both digital and 3D mammography to screen for and diagnose breast health issues.

Digital Mammography

Digital mammography uses computers and specially designed digital detectors to produce an image that can be displayed on a high-resolution computer monitor and transmitted and stored just like computer files. Unlike film-based mammography, digital mammograms produce images that appear on the technologist's monitor in a matter of seconds. There is no waiting for film to develop, which can mean a shorter time spent in the breast imaging suite.

Digital mammography allows radiologists to view the x-ray image more closely, zero in on suspicious areas and make immediate decisions about additional images. Digital mammography takes less than half the time of traditional film-based exams. It's so fast that radiologists can review the images while the patient is still in the examination room.

In conjunction with the digital mammography unit, Allen is also offering digital Computer-Aided Detection (CAD). CAD provides a "second read" of the mammogram by a computer. CAD software helps the radiologist in making an accurate diagnosis, like spell check assists word processing.

3D Mammography

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis is a new technology in the fight against breast cancer, which allows doctors to examine your breast tissue one layer at a time. During 3D mammography, multiple low-dose images or "slices" of the breast are taken at different angles. With this new technology, the radiologist can view a mammogram in a way never before possible.

3D mammography uses high-powered computing to convert digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or "slices" building what is essentially a "3D mammogram". Fine details of the breast are more clearly visible and no longer hidden by overlapping tissue.

Am I a candidate for 3D mammography?

Health care providers believe that all patients benefit from this new technology. However, the best candidates for 3D mammography are those with dense breast tissue and/or a strong family history of breast cancer. Early detection is the best defense against breast cancer. 3D mammography has been shown in clinical studies to be more accurate than digital mammography alone by detecting cancers earlier.

What should I expect from 3D mammography?

3D mammography is very similar to a traditional mammogram. Just as with a traditional digital mammogram, the technologist will position you, compress your breast under a paddle and take images from different angles. Positioning is the same as a standard 2D mammogram. The exposure time will be longer by just a few seconds, depending on the density of your breasts. Although 3D mammography takes a few seconds longer, there is no additional compression.

What are the benefits of 3D mammography?

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis is a new technology in the fight against breast cancer, which allows doctors to examine your breast tissue one layer at a time. During 3D mammography, multiple low-dose images or "slices" of the breast are taken at different angles. With this new technology, the radiologist can view a mammogram in a way never before possible.

3D mammography uses high-powered computing to convert digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers or "slices" building what is essentially a "3D mammogram". Fine details of the breast are more clearly visible and no longer hidden by overlapping tissue.

Do I get more radiation with 3D mammography?

At Allen Hospital, we have purchased brand new state of the art technology capable of producing the 3D and 2D image with one tomosynthesis sweep. This produces an x-ray exposure similar to one standard 2D mammogram. The FDA has found the combination of 3D and standard mammography to be safe and effective for patient use.

What if I choose not to undergo a 3D mammogram?

A standard 2D digital mammogram will be performed.

Will my insurance cover 3D mammography?

Most insurance companies cover 3D mammography, but please contact your carrier for complete details.

Breast Density Guidelines

All Iowa facilities that provide mammography service are required by law to notify patients of their breast density. This new regulation was mandated by the Iowa Department of Health. 

Following a mammogram, patients will receive a letter sent directly to their homes by the UnityPoint Health mammography department to inform them of their tissue density. 

What is breast density? 

Breasts are made up of a mixture of fibrous, glandular and fatty tissue. Your breasts are considered dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue (dense) but not much fat (not dense). Breast density is not a measure of how breasts feel but rather how the breasts look on a mammogram.

Why does breast density matter? 

Although normal, dense breast tissue makes interpretation of mammograms more difficult. Dense tissue can hide a breast cancer at an early stage. Depending on how dense your breast tissue is, it may moderately increase your risk of breast cancer.

How do I know if I have dense breast tissue?

Breast density is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram. There are four categories of mammographic density. The radiologist decides which category best describes your breast tissue density. 

What do I do if I'm worried about my breast density? 

Together with your provider, you can determine if additional screening options are appropriate for you.

The imaging departments at UnityPoint Health – Waterloo can help you take the preventative steps needed to stay healthy. Learn more about our mammography services today and schedule your 3D mammogram by contacting (319) 833-6000.

For more information and additional resources, visit:

Radiologists classify breast density using a 4-level scale: 

Walk-in Mammograms Available

Breast cancer prevention now features the convenience of walk-in mammograms at all three locations in the Cedar Valley – Allen Hospital, Prairie Parkway and United Medical Park. By simply walking in, you can receive a mammogram at a time that's convenient for you with a doctor's order (goldenrod form). 

Walk-ins are available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. at all three locations in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. For more information, call (319) 235-5100 or (866) 960-8179.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for Annual Breast Screening

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screening mammograms starting at age 40 and annually until the age of 75; after age 75 based on health status.

Once you have a doctor's referral for a mammogram, call us at (319) 833-6000 to schedule an appointment or to learn more about 3D mammography.

Mammography FAQ's

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast. It is used to detect breast cancer in the earliest stage when it is most treatable. A mammogram can find breast cancer tumors up to two years before they can be felt during a physical exam.

Why is early detection important?

It saves lives. Most mammograms results are negative (disease-free). Even if a lump is found, 8 out of 10 are NOT cancer. And when cancer is detected, the survival rate is near 100% for individuals whose tumors are detected and treated early, when they are less than 1 centimeter in size.

Who should get a mammogram?

All women should perform a self-exam every month. Between ages 29-40, you should also have a breast exam by a healthcare professional every 3 years. Beginning at age 40, the American Cancer Society recommends you get a mammogram and a medical breast exam every year. If you have a family history of breast cancer, please talk to your doctor about when and how often you should get a mammogram.

What happens during a mammogram?

A registered radiologic (x-ray) technologist specially trained in mammography and breast evaluation will do your exam. All mammograms at Allen Hospital or Allen Hospital's Imaging Center at United Medical Park are performed by female technologists. Your mammogram will take less than 15 minutes to complete. A mammogram involves positioning the breast on an imaging device, applying pressure with a compression paddle to flatten out the tissue, and taking the x-ray. Although compression can be slightly uncomfortable, our digital technology makes the exam more comfortable for you.

How do I prepare for a mammogram?

In order to prepare for your mammogram, please do not wear any deodorant, powders, ointments, or perfumes under the arms or on your breasts. These items may cause artifacts on the images.

Why is compression important?

Proper compression makes it easier to identify cancers that would not be seen otherwise. It is vital to get a clear x-ray picture of the entire breast. Compression also reduces the amount of radiation to your breast and the rest of your body.

How do I get my results?

A radiologist, a physician who specializes in reading x-ray exams, will read your mammogram. Results will be sent to you and your doctor. In most cases, results will be available in 24 to 48 hours.