What Is a Bilateral Mammogram?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2019
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A bilateral mammogram is a screening tool used to check for abnormalities in breast tissue. Utilizing X-rays to create an image of each breast, this type of mammogram has become an invaluable instrument in the early detection of breast cancer. Bilateral mammograms that yield abnormal results often necessitate additional testing. There are risks associated with a bilateral mammography and these should be discussed with one’s physician prior to scheduling a mammogram.

Mammography is regularly performed to identify changes in one’s breast tissue. Routine, or screening, mammograms are normally bilateral, meaning both breasts are examined. A woman’s first bilateral mammogram is usually used as a baseline, and subsequent mammograms are interpreted based on a comparison to the first test.

Although a bilateral mammogram is considered essential to early detection in the fight against breast cancer, it is important to understand there are some forms of malignancy the test may not detect. For instance, malignancies, especially very small ones, concealed in dense tissues may be missed by a screening mammogram.

Since the 1950s, mammography has been used to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. The application of electromagnetic radiation, as used during X-rays, has been a source of speculation and debate for decades, especially when it comes to mammography. Over the years, the mammogram has come a long way. Refined imaging methods, including the use of specialized film that minimizes radiation exposure, have decreased a woman’s risk for consequential health issues related to a bilateral mammogram.


A bilateral mammogram can identify several anomalous conditions of the breast. Atypical and dense tissues, including masses, can prompt additional testing to determine the cause of the abnormality. Calcium deposits, frequently resulting from injury or disease, may also be detected. Any abnormal findings require further diagnostic testing, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine whether the condition is benign or cancerous.

As with any X-ray, mammography requires the patient to remove any items that may hinder the test. The individual is given a gown to wear and asked to remove all clothing above the waist, including jewelry. Women are also encouraged to refrain from using any personal products, including lotion and certain deodorants, before testing. It is possible for some product ingredients to interfere with imaging results.

Prior to the administration of a bilateral mammogram, a lab technician will usually adjust the mammography machine to match the patient’s height. Positioned on a platform holding the X-ray film, the patient’s breast is slowly compressed to the platform by a plate. Once an image is obtained, the plate releases. Each breast is imaged independently. If the image quality of either breast is called into question, the test may be repeated.


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Post 1

Since the article wasn't really specific, I'm going to assume it means a bilateral mammogram either checks both breasts as a procedure, or that two views are usually taken of each breast: one from the top and one from the side, as the breast is compressed.

The problem with a mammogram is the radiologist has to really know his or her stuff to be able to read the things correctly. I have fibrocystic disease in both breasts, which, in essence, makes them kind of dense and lumpy. There's a spot on one breast that always shows up as being a little weird looking. It's been there on every film and never changes. However, the radiologist always compares my films to the ones from the year before to make sure the place hasn't changed. Makes the "all clear" wait a lot longer than necessary.

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