Routine Breast Cancer Screening and Breast Cancer Diagnosis

For More Information 855-855-6484

Mammograms use low-dose X-rays to create detailed images of breast tissue. They can help your doctor detect breast cancer at the earliest-possible stage and identify the cause of breast problems, such as pain or masses. Mammograms can save lives. All Duke Health mammography locations perform 3D imaging using an advanced technology called digital breast tomosynthesis. The highly accurate images allow radiologists to detect breast cancer and other changes in breast tissue early and reduces the number of false alarms when compared to traditional 2D mammograms. 

Our Breast Imaging Locations

Scheduling Your Mammogram

If you have a Duke primary care doctor or Duke obstetrician-gynecologist, you can schedule a screening mammogram by phone or through My Duke Health (previously Duke MyChart). You will receive a yearly reminder after you schedule your first mammogram at Duke Health. We offer same-day appointments and have extended hours at several locations for screening mammograms.

What Does a Mammogram Show?

Mammograms can detect normal and abnormal changes in breast tissue. These include small white spots related to calcium deposits, larger abnormal areas called masses, and other signs of cancer. Mammograms alone are not used to diagnose cancer, but they can help your doctor decide if more testing is needed.

Schedule Your Screening Mammogram Online

If you are a current Duke Health patient, you can schedule your screening mammogram appointment online if you have a My Duke Health account.

Types of Mammograms

Screening Mammograms

Screening mammograms are for people who are not experiencing symptoms. Your first screening mammogram -- called a baseline mammogram -- is recommended at age 40, in most cases. If you have a family history or other risk factors for breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that screening start at a younger age. The doctor reviewing your mammogram compares your current images to those taken in the past. This helps them monitor for changes in your breast tissue over time. 

Diagnostic Mammograms

Diagnostic mammograms are performed to provide a more detailed evaluation of a possible abnormality on your screening mammogram or to evaluate a breast lump or other breast problem. During this exam, detailed 3D images of your breast tissue are taken.

If your screening mammogram shows a possible abnormal area, we will contact you to schedule a diagnostic mammogram or other test, such as a breast ultrasound. About 10 percent of screening mammograms have a finding that requires additional diagnostic imaging, so this is relatively common. If you get called to return for a diagnostic exam, it does not mean you have breast cancer. After a closer look, the doctor may determine the finding is normal. 

Let your primary care doctor or obstetrician-gynecologist know if you feel a breast lump or experience other breast problems. They will provide a referral for a diagnostic mammogram, if necessary. You may also have other imaging tests such as a breast ultrasound or breast MRI.

Mammogram Safety and Comfort

Mammograms use very low-dose X-rays, resulting in minimal exposure to radiation. Duke Health uses 3D mammography technology, which can reduce the number of images required and the need for follow-up tests. 

During your mammogram, your breasts will be compressed gently but firmly to provide a clear picture. This compression can be uncomfortable for some people but does not last long. 

Locating Prior Mammogram Images

If you have had mammograms previously at a different health care facility, please share the name of that location with us. We can help you get access to these images, which will be used for comparison purposes. This helps ensure an accurate and faster reading of your images. 

Diagnostic Mammograms Require a Doctor’s Referral

If you feel a lump in your breast or underarm or have other signs of breast cancer, contact your doctor’s office by phone or through My Duke Health. They will determine if a diagnostic mammogram is required and help you schedule your appointment.  


Our facilities are ACR-accredited for mammography, which represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety.

What to Expect During Your Mammogram

Preparing for Your Mammogram

Wear a two-piece outfit with an easy-to-remove top. When you arrive, you will be asked to undress from the waist up, take off any necklaces, and put on a gown. Avoid using deodorant, powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breasts the day of your mammogram. If you forget, you technologist can provide wipes before imaging. They will ask questions to ensure your medical history is up to date.

During Your Exam

You will stand in front of a 3D mammogram machine, and your technologist will place one breast on a platform that is raised or lowered to match your height. Your technologist will help you position your body to allow for an unobstructed view of your breast. Your breast will be slowly pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. Compression is applied for a few seconds to spread out the breast tissue. This allows for the best possible image with the least amount of radiation. The 3D mammogram machine will move above you from one side to the other as it collects images. You may be asked to stand still and hold your breath for a few seconds. Two images will be taken of each breast. The pressure on your breast will be released, and the same process will be repeated for your other breast.
Your technologist will assess the images for clarity and quality. If needed, more images will be taken. A screening mammogram takes less than 10 minutes, but plan to spend at least 30 minutes at your appointment. 

Diagnostic mammograms may include a 3D mammogram to gather additional images and one or more additional tests. Diagnostic exams take one-and-a-half hours or more, including wait time.

Getting Your Results

Screening Mammogram

Once your mammogram is complete, your images are interpreted by a radiologist called a breast imaging specialist. This doctor has advanced fellowship training in the early detection of breast cancer and the identification of abnormal breast masses. Your report and images are typically sent to you (through My Duke Health) and your primary care doctor or obstetrician-gynecologist within 24 hours of your appointment. Your doctor may contact you to discuss the results. You will be asked to acknowledge that you received this information in My Duke Health.

Since you will be able to access your results as soon as they are available, you may see them in My Duke Health before your doctor has had a chance to look at them and explain them to you. If you prefer not to see your results before your doctor, let them know. They can request a delay in sending your information to My Duke Health until you have the chance to talk with them.

Diagnostic Mammogram

Your images will be read by a radiologist, and the information will be immediately sent to your doctor through My Duke Health. Your doctor will contact you to discuss the results and next steps. A quick turnaround time allows further testing or treatment to begin as soon as possible.

This page was medically reviewed on 02/22/2023 by