What is the difference between a screening and diagnostic mammogram?

Nurse Assisting Patient Undergoing MammogramSubmitted by: Lisa Michels, RN, BSN, Breast Care Coordinator

It is recommended that women at age 40 have annual screening mammograms. A screening mammogram is considered preventive care and is usually covered by most insurance. It does not require an order from your provider. It is a 15-minute appointment that involves a board-certified mammography technician obtaining specific standard views of each breast. A radiologist will be reviewing your images that same day, but not at the time you are there for your imaging. The radiologist will be making recommendations as to returning in one year, or if additional views are needed.

If you are called back from the Women’s Imaging department to get additional views it is because the radiologist sees an area of concern on one of the images. When you return for your imaging, the technician may do magnified views and possibly an ultrasound of the area in the breast. Many times these additional images will verify that the area seen during the screening is not a concern. About 2 percent of women that return for these additional views will need subsequent procedures, such as a biopsy. It is important to understand that these images are not considered preventive medicine, but rather diagnostic. This means that insurance may not cover the cost, but rather the amount would be applied to your deductible. A diagnostic mammogram is also done for women who present with a lump, nipple drainage or other clinical complaints. A diagnostic mammogram needs to be ordered by your provider.

For any questions or concerns, contact the Women’s Imaging departments:

Fond du Lac: (920) 926-5490

Ripon: (920) 748-0495

Waupun: (920) 324-6544


About Agnesian HealthCare Womens Health

Addressing the physical, emotional and educational needs of women, Agnesian HealthCare's Women's Health Services offers the resources that apply to your life, in all its wonderful complexity. With a Health Resource Center, Obstetric Services, a Domestic Violence Program, Behavioral Health Services and programs serving women in mid-life, a number of options are available in the Fond du Lac, Ripon and Waupun areas.

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