What is Mammography?

A mammogram is a low dose x-ray of the breast.

It is the most common and cost-effective screening exam for breast cancer and for diagnosing a variety of breast issues.

Until recently, all mammography was performed using 2 dimensional (2D) images, which captured all of the breast tissue in 4-6 images.

What is 3D mammography, and why do we recommend 3D Mammography for our patients?

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Facts About 3D Mammography

  • A 3-dimensional (3D) mammogram is an FDA approved technology that takes multiple low dose projection images of the breast tissue to create a 3-dimensional image of the entire breast. 3D mammography takes only a few more seconds than 2D imaging.

  • All women, regardless of breast density, benefit from 3D mammography because 3D mammography has been shown to detect cancers earlier compared to 2D mammography.

  • Women with dense breast tissue greatly benefit from this technology as it produces clearer images and reduces the chance for additional imaging or unnecessary procedures.

  • Due to its lower recall rate, patients who undergo 3D mammography may have lower overall imaging costs in the year after mammography than patients undergoing 2D mammography.

  • All major insurance companies now cover 3D mammography.

Our new 3D mammography units have the most advanced technology in the region and across the country. Our SmartCurve mammography paddles, by Hologic, are designed to reduce pain and pinching which allows for increased comfort compared to other technologies.

If you have any more questions about how our 3D technology may benefit you and your family, please ask to speak to a technologist for more information.

Women’s Imaging Services


Regarding the recent guidelines by the American Cancer Society regarding mammography screening, AAR strongly agrees with the recommendations of the American College of Radiology (ACR) and of the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI). In order to obtain the maximum benefit from screening mammography, AAR (along with the ACR and SBI) advises yearly screening, commencing at age 40. Starting screening at later ages or screening biennially for older individuals would result in delayed detection which may adversely affect mortality and morbidity from breast cancer. We firmly believe based on the evidence we see every day that screening mammography saves lives.

Click on the links below to learn more about the different professional societies and organizations recommendations.

AAR offers the following mammography services at our Alexandria and Woodbridge imaging centers:

  • 3D Digital Mammography with tomosynthesis
  • Standard 2D digital mammography

Bone Densitometry

Bone density, or DEXA, is a quick and noninvasive examination that uses a small dose of ionizing radiation to measure bone loss, diagnose osteoporosis and assess an individual’s risk for developing fractures. Patients should always inform their physician or technologist if they have recently had a barium examination, or have been injected with contrast material prior to the scheduled appointment. Patients should not take calcium supplements for 24 hours before the exam. Dexa is the established standard for measuring bone mineral density.

If you would like to learn more about DEXA and its screening process, please click here.

3D Digital Mammography with Tomosynthesis

Breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3D Mammography, is an advanced form of mammography that uses low dose x-rays and computer reconstruction to create 3D images of breast tissue. Conventional 2D mammography only take images from the top, bottom and sides of the breast and can cause overlapping breast tissue leading to additional images needed later.

3D mammography aids in some of the limitations of 2D standard mammography. With a 3D mammogram, the X-ray tube moves over the compressed breast tissue capturing multiple images from all angles of the breast. These 3D images aid in minimizing tissue overlap that can obscure hidden masses.

How do I prepare for my mammogram?

AAR recommends not wearing deodorant, using talcum powder or using lotion on your arms or breast on the day of your exam. Deodorant artifacts can be mistaken for calcium deposits on the mammogram, therefore we ask patients not to wear deodorant. AAR does provide deodorant wipes upon completion of the exam.

If you are a new patient to our facility, we ask that you obtain your prior mammogram and sonogram images as well as reports, and bring them with you the day of your exam. This will allow our radiologist to compare your prior exams with your current study.


C-View is the latest technology in women’s breast care and is now available at no additional cost to our patients.

How does it work? – Digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) obtains multiple sliced images through the breast unlike conventional 2D mammography which obtains a single image of the breast. The addition of 3D mammography has resulted in an increase in breast cancer detection by 40%. Previously 3D images were obtained in addition to 2D images. With the addition of C-View technology which is now available at AAR, conventional 2D images are reconstructed from the 3D image set.

With C-View you get:

  • Faster examination times

  • Less motion artifacts

  • Lower radiation dosage

  • Increased patient comfort

  • Improved lesion detection

Types of Mammograms

Screening Mammogram

A routine annual exam recommended for women who do not have breast symptoms. The aim of screening mammograms is to detect unsuspected breast cancers at any early stage when treatment is most effective.

Diagnostic Mammogram

A diagnostic mammogram is performed when a woman or heath care professional discovers a lump, tenderness, nipple discharge or skin changes. Diagnostic mammograms are also used after a patient has had suspicious results on a screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammograms are also performed when a short term follow up from a prior diagnostic mammogram is recommended, or if a patient has been previously treated for breast cancer.

A diagnostic mammogram can be interpreted a few ways:

  • An area of concern on a screening mammogram is actually normal and no further evaluation is needed.
  • An area of concern is not cancerous, but the radiologist recommends following the area with a four to six month diagnostic follow up.
  • Area of concern that is suspicious for cancer and recommends a biopsy for confirmation.

When will I get my results?

The referring physician will receive a copy of the finalized report within 24 hours. Additionally, AAR offers patients the convenience of our patient portal system allowing patients access to their reports, online within 72 hours of their scheduled appointment.

Per MQSA guidelines, a letter with your results will be mailed to the home address on file within 7 days of the exam(s) performed.