What Does a Mammographer Do? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
After a mammographer finishes taking images, they'll check to see if they are clear and crisp, so they can be re-taken immediately if there's a problem.
After a mammographer finishes taking images, they'll check to see if they are clear and crisp, so they can be re-taken immediately if there's a problem.

A mammographer performs medical imaging studies of the breasts for cancer screening and diagnosis. Mammographers have training in radiology and the use of X-ray technology for imaging studies of the body. Some pursue specific certification in mammography to offer the best possible services to their patients. Such training also can potentially expand employment opportunities in regions where employers preferentially hire mammographers who have this certification.

A mammographer performs medical imaging studies of the breasts for cancer screening and diagnosis.
A mammographer performs medical imaging studies of the breasts for cancer screening and diagnosis.

When a patient is referred to the mammographer, the technician performs an intake interview and fills out a patient intake form. This healthcare professional also discusses the risks and benefits of mammography with the patient to make sure that she understands why the test is ordered, what it offers and what the potential risks might be. When the patient is fully informed, the mammographer can start the imaging study.

A woman's gynecologist or other physician may order a mammogram to assess breast abnormalities.
A woman's gynecologist or other physician may order a mammogram to assess breast abnormalities.

Mammography requires careful positioning of each breast in an imaging machine to get a clear, crisp, usable image. This requires training and practice, because each breast is slightly different. Errors could be dangerous, because they might result in missing the early signs of breast cancer. The mammographer takes images of the breasts with low-dose radiation to minimize risks for the patient and must exercise radiological precautions to protect the patient and all personnel in the area from exposure to dangerously high levels of X-rays.

A mammographer takes images of the breasts with low-dose radiation to minimize risks for the patient.
A mammographer takes images of the breasts with low-dose radiation to minimize risks for the patient.

After the mammographer finishes the imaging, it usually is necessary to check the images to make sure that they are clear and crisp. If there is a problem, the images can be retaken immediately, rather than having to call the patient back to repeat the process. Depending on the level of training and certification, the mammographer might be able to offer information about the images, or the images and the patient might be referred to a physician who can read the pictures and discuss the findings.

A mammogram machine presses the breast between two plates in order to capture the best image.
A mammogram machine presses the breast between two plates in order to capture the best image.

This work can take place in clinics and hospitals as well as mobile medical centers. Mobile breast cancer screening is offered in many nations to ensure that as many women as possible have access to mammography for the purpose of early breast cancer detection. Mammographers in mobile screening programs might work predominantly with low-income patients and might perform education and outreach as part of their work.

The salary for mammographers can vary. People who have more training and certifications might be more likely to get higher level of pay and benefits. Mammographers who are willing to travel with mobile clinics or as part of a team that provides rotating coverage to a group of healthcare facilities also can earn a higher salary.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • After a mammographer finishes taking images, they'll check to see if they are clear and crisp, so they can be re-taken immediately if there's a problem.
      After a mammographer finishes taking images, they'll check to see if they are clear and crisp, so they can be re-taken immediately if there's a problem.
    • A mammographer performs medical imaging studies of the breasts for cancer screening and diagnosis.
      A mammographer performs medical imaging studies of the breasts for cancer screening and diagnosis.
    • A woman's gynecologist or other physician may order a mammogram to assess breast abnormalities.
      A woman's gynecologist or other physician may order a mammogram to assess breast abnormalities.
    • A mammographer takes images of the breasts with low-dose radiation to minimize risks for the patient.
      A mammographer takes images of the breasts with low-dose radiation to minimize risks for the patient.
    • A mammogram machine presses the breast between two plates in order to capture the best image.
      A mammogram machine presses the breast between two plates in order to capture the best image.