Diagnostic Mammogram

The medical imaging suite of Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital is one of the most comprehensive in the Upper Peninsula. With state of the art technology and our highly-qualified team of ARRT board-certified technologists, we are committed to bringing you the very best healthcare experience possible.

One of the radiology services that we offer is diagnostic mammograms. If you are already scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram, you only need to check-in at the main registration desk then check-in at the Medical Imaging reception desk. To view the hospital map, click here.

For you to be fully prepared for your upcoming diagnostic mammogram at Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital, keep reading.

What Is a Diagnostic Mammogram?

This diagnostic procedure involves the use of x-ray imaging to assist a physician in getting a more detailed, yet noninvasive, look at the breast tissue. This special type of x-ray imaging uses specialized technology and techniques to get accurate results while minimizing the radiation dose to the patient. 

Typically, a diagnostic mammogram is ordered when a patient is showing possible signs or symptoms of breast cancer after a physical exam. These could be lumps, breast pain, skin thickening, nipple discharge, or any other abnormal changes. A diagnostic mammogram can also be ordered if a radiologist sees something suspicious on a patient’s screening mammogram such as masses and calcifications. 

Typically, this is not a standalone follow-up test to detect the presence of breast cancer. Other tests such as ultrasound and core-needle biopsy can also be requested depending on the patient’s case.

Patient undergoing the diagnostic mammogram procedure

What’s the Difference Between a Diagnostic Mammogram and a Screening Mammogram?

A mammography exam or a mammogram can be conducted either for screening or for diagnosis. Both types of exams play a vital role in the early detection of breast cancer — even during a phase that the cancer cannot be felt by the patient yet. Though the technology used for these two types of exams are similar, they differ in purpose and set of procedures. 

A screening mammogram can be routinely performed to detect breast cancer in women who are not showing signs or symptoms yet. The diagnostic mammogram, however, is used to look further into suspicious findings from the screening mammogram and/or physical exam — meaning the patient is already exhibiting symptoms of what could potentially be breast cancer. 

Since a diagnostic mammogram is used to confirm findings, it is also more thorough than the screening mammogram. The screening mammogram typically involves 2 images of each breast, the cranio-caudal (CC) view and the medio-lateral-oblique (MLO) view. The diagnostic mammogram could include supplemental views such as the medio-lateral (ML) view,  latero-medial (LM) view, exaggerated CC, magnification spot compression, and more depending on the patient’s case.

Why Might You Need a Diagnostic Mammogram?

The diagnostic mammogram is a step towards confirming the presence of breast cancer in patients that are already showing signs or symptoms. These signs or symptoms could be detected from a physical exam or from a screening mammogram result.

From a Physical Exam of the Breast

The signs and symptoms could be one or more of the following:

  • Breast lumps or axillary lumps: these are assessed for hardness, asymmetry with the other breast, fixation to skin or muscle, and irregularity of shape.
  • Skin dimpling: this is when the skin looks like the pitting skin of an orange.
  • Skin changes: this could include swelling, thickening, redness, and etc.
  • Nipple abnormalities: this could include recent nipple inversion, retraction, bloody discharge, and retraction.

From a Screening Mammogram Result

The findings that would lead to a diagnostic mammogram request could be one or more of the following:

  • Masses: these are areas of dense breast tissue with irregularities that make it stand out from the rest of the breast tissue. These could be cysts, non-cancerous solid tumours, or cancerous tumours.
  • Calcifications: these are small deposits of calcium in the breast tissue. These can be macrocalcifications or microcalcifications. Macrocalcifications are larger and are typically caused by ageing, inflammation, or old injuries. Microcalcifications, however, are more of a suspicious find and it is up to the radiologist to indicate if they are likely to have formed because of breast cancer.

How to Prepare for a Diagnostic Mammogram

Please be mindful of the following points in preparation for your diagnostic mammogram:

Pregnancy and Physical Limitations

If you’re pregnant or if you suspect that you might be, it is very important to advise your physician or the technologist. As the exam may involve standing and changing positions in front of the x-ray machine for 30 minutes, voice out any pain, discomfort, or physical limitations.

Prior Mammograms & Physician’s Request

Bring any previous mammogram results along with your physician’s request. The latter is a must because, as we’ve mentioned above, the supplemental views that need to be done in the diagnostic mammogram may need to be tailor-fit to each individual patient’s case. 

Medication & Food

Take medication as per usual.

Skin Preparation

On the day of the test, avoid using cream, deodorant, antiperspirants, body powder, lotion, and the like, on the skin under your arms or on your chest. These could interfere with the results of your diagnostic mammogram.


Leave out any neck jewelry as these will need to be taken off for the procedure. It would be advisable to wear a two-piece comfortable outfit (e.g. shirt and pants) since you would need to remove clothing articles on your torso.

What to Expect During a Diagnostic Mammogram Exam

As mentioned in the above section, patients need to first remove their top clothing for the diagnostic mammogram procedure. The technologist will then explain the rest of the procedure and ask questions mainly about the patient’s health history. 

Each breast will then be placed, one at a time, between two plates and compressed while the x-rays are taken. The compression is done to ensure the clarity of the imaging. You may be asked to stand for about 15 to 30 minutes during the procedure and changes in position may be required.

Patient standing in front of an x-ray for a diagnostic mammogram

How Long Does It Take to Get Your Results?

The usual turnaround time for mammogram results in less than 1 week. This timeframe could change depending on the urgency that your results are needed, whether there are past mammograms to compare the results with, the complexity of the procedure, and whether more information is needed from your physician to make a more accurate interpretation.

Dr. Niksa (Nick) Vlasic, M.D.

Dr. Niksa Vlasic

Dr. Niksa (Nick) Vlasic, M.D. is board certified in Diagnostic Radiology and Vascular and Interventional Radiology. He received his training at New York Medical College, New York Presbyterian Hospital and the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Vlasic is part of Upper Peninsula Imaging and is on the staff at: Bell Hospital, Marquette General Hospital, Newberrry Hospital, Munising Hospital, Baraga County Memorial Hospital, Schoolcraft Hospital, and OSF St. Francis Hospital in Escanaba.

Dr. Vlasic has been treating chronic leg pain and varicose vein disease for over 14 years, and has extensive experience using minimally invasive techniques to provide complete vein evaluations and comprehensive therapy. His procedures are performed in the state-of-the-art Vascular and Interventional Suite at Bell Hospital using the most advanced techniques and equipment.

Dr. Vlasic also provides full Vascular and Interventional Radiology clinic services and consultations with a Pain Management Clinic and a comprehensive Peripheral Vascular Disease Clinic. The Pain Management Clinic includes Epidural Steroid Injections, Intra-articular Steroid Injections, Facet Injections, and Vertebroplasty. The Peripheral Vascular Disease Clinic includes the Vein Clinic, and also provides arterial angiography with percutaneous balloon angioplasty and stent placement.

Dr. Vlasic also offers a wide spectrum of minimally invasive image guided procedures including image guided biopsies, tube placements, and percutaneous catheter placements and drainage procedures.

Find out More Information From Schoolcraft Memorial

Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital is a trusted, first choice multi-specialty hospital in the Upper Peninsula with a mission to provide quality health and wellness care. Explore our website to learn more about our services, our physicians, our hospital map, and more. 

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us.  

SCMH Case Study

Breast cancer case study

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