Benefis Breast Center

Benefis Hospital’s Breast Center is a special place with a special mission: to advance breast health for women through expert, compassionate care.

As part of Benefis Health System, the Breast Center is also able to draw upon tremendous talent and resources. To support us in our mission, you’ll find an experienced, sensitive team of physicians, technicians, nurses and allied healthcare professionals, all committed to your breast health and peace of mind.

Benefis Breast Center has been selected as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence and is accredited in stereotactic breast biopsy by the American College of Radiology (ACR). With this designation, Benefis Breast Center has achieved high practice standards in image quality, personnel qualification, facility equipment, quality control procedures and quality assurance programs.

To further emphasize our commitment to quality breast care for women of our region, we submitted to a rigorous evaluation and received official certification by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). With this accreditation, you have access to:

  • Comprehensive care, including a full range of state-of-the-art services
  • A team approach to coordinate your best treatment options
  • Information about ongoing clinical trials and new treatment options and,
  • Quality breast care close to home.


From mammography to diagnostic imaging, Benefis Breast Center offers the latest technology in detecting and diagnosing breast disease. Based on the findings, several options are available to accommodate each woman’s individual needs.


Whether a woman diagnosed with breast cancer chooses breast conservation (lumpectomy) or mastectomy, the skilled surgeons at Benefis Breast Center are able to perform the surgery and provide follow-up. For those women considering reconstruction, our plastic surgeon can tailor a surgical plan based on desires outcome.


In a rapidly changing field, our medical and radiation oncologists are prepared to offer the most current standard of care in breast cancer treatment, whether it be radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biotherapy or a combination of these methods. Over 25 clinical trials are open for enrollment, providing the most recent advances in cancer care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should have a mammogram??The American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology have established the following guidelines for mammography and breast health care. If your history indicates special risk, please consult your physician about beginning exams at an earlier age.

Ages 20 to 34:

  • Monthly breast self-exam
  • Physical every three years

Ages 35 to 40:

  • Baseline Mammogram
  • Monthly breast self-exam
  • Physical every 1 to 3 years

Ages 40 & Over:

  • Annual Mammogram
  • Monthly breast self-exam
  • Annual physical

Why should I have a mammogram?

Mammograms have proven to be the single best method available for the detection of breast cancer. The vast majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer had no detectable abnormality until a mammogram was performed and a suspicious area was found. Mammograms are most effective in detecting breast cancer when a clinical breast exam is also performed by a healthcare provider.

Why should I come to Benefis Breast Center for my mammogram?

We have a warm and comfortable atmosphere, and our staff of all-female technologists is friendly and willing to help you with any questions you may have. They are highly educated and trained in their field of mammography, as are our ultrasound technologists and MRI technologists in theirs. We are here to make your exam pleasant, and yet quick for your busy schedules.

How is a mammogram performed?

During a mammogram, the breast is compressed between an x-ray plate and a plastic cover. The exam causes pressure, but will last only a few seconds. Several views may be taken in order to obtain the best possible image. You will be asked to wait a brief period to allow the technologist to review the films to ensure that the necessary information has been obtained for the interpretation by a Radiologist.

What is a Digital mammogram?

A digital mammogram is read electronically, rather than a standard film x-ray. All mammography images at Benefis Health System are done digitally.

What is the “Computed Aided Detection System”?

The R2 computed aided detection system enhances the Radiologist's accuracy when reading mammograms. CAD is a standard of care at Benefis Health System. Studies have shown that CAD substantially increases the detection of even the smallest breast cancers.

Does compression damage the breast?Does a mammogram hurt?

Compression may cause some discomfort, but should not damage the breast tissue. Compressing the breast also does not cause or spread breast cancer. Also, a mammogram should not hurt. Some women have said this depends on where they are in their menstrual cycle. You may want to schedule your appointment the week after your period, if you know your breasts are sensitive.

What do you do with breast implants??

We conduct mammograms on women with implants. We use a special technique that allows us to visualize the tissue behind the implant.

What if I have small breasts?

Does a mammogram hurt more for those with large or small breasts??We perform a mammogram on any size breasts. Breast size does not determine how much discomfort a patient has during a mammogram. An uncomfortable mammogram usually is due to sensitive breasts caused by hormonal changes. Even men, who are typically flat-chested, can have mammograms.

Is pain a symptom of cancer?

Pain rarely is a symptom of breast cancer, but is common of benign cysts. If a woman has persistent pain in any area of the body, including the breast, she should seek medical advice.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Most breast cancers have no symptoms at all. Approximately 85% of breast cancers are found on a mammogram. Some symptoms that may be associated with breast cancer are an obvious lump, nipple discharge, skin changes, nipple changes or a lump in the armpit.

Do you conduct mammograms on men??

Yes. Men can develop breast lumps and breast cancer. If a man suspects a problem with his breast, he should call his primary physician. Mammography is a helpful detection tool for suspected male breast cancer.
Is there a machine available that does not squash the breast??No. Compression is very important to even out the thickness of the breast so we can achieve the best picture possible.

What is a Breast Ultrasound?

An ultrasound, or sonogram, uses sound waves to make an image of the breast on a computer screen. A special transmitting gel is applied to the breast. A technologist will then move a probe over the surface of the breast to get the desired views. This is a non-invasive exam and should not be uncomfortable. Ultrasound is better at ruling out cystic or solid masses, while calcifications are not always visible under ultrasound. Mammography is the best tool for looking at the entire breast.

Why do I need to update my health history every year??

It is important for the Radiologist to be aware of any changes and additions to your health history since your last mammogram. These changes can sometimes affect your diagnosis.

Why is important to have my previous mammograms at my appointment?

The Radiologist reading your mammogram films is looking for tiny abnormalities in your breast that are unique to you. It is extremely helpful to be able to compare films for changes in your breasts. Without the previous films, you may be asked to come back for additional views, causing undue stress and delays in providing treatment.

How long does it take to have a mammogram and how/when do you find out the results?

For screening mammogram patients, our goal is to perform and complete the exam in 15 minutes. These exams will be interpreted by the Radiologist within 1-2 working days. This allows the Radiologist to take the time he/she needs to read your mammogram accurately. Letters are then mailed to the patient's home address. If additional imaging is needed the patient will be called to set up another appointment.

Diagnostic mammography often is a longer exam, because additional images and ultrasound may be performed. These patients are usually given their results at the time of their exam, both verbally and in writing.

What happens if an abnormality is found on my mammogram?

An area of concern found on a mammogram requires further investigation. Usually, you will be called back for close-up views of the area. The recommendation may be made for an ultrasound to look at the area in a different manner. All of these pictures are studied to determine if a biopsy is needed or it close follow-up is adequate.

If an abnormality is found, what is the chance it might be breast cancer?

Approximately 10% of screening mammograms are called back for additional image evaluation, which involves diagnostic mammography views and/or ultrasound. Of those that are called back, only 10% of those require biopsy (90% are either explained as benign findings or simply require short-term follow-up). Of those that are biopsied, only about 30% actually are cancer. Another way to put this is that out of 1,000 screening mammograms performed, approximately 5 patients will be found to have cancer.

What happens if I am called back for additional imaging?

If there is a suspicious finding on your mammogram, you will be called back for additional imaging and/or ultrasound. This helps the Radiologist to make a diagnosis. This may also include ultrasound-guided core biopsy, stereotactic biopsy, cyst aspiration, needle localization with surgical consultation, MRI of the breast or MRI-guided biopsy.

Do I need my primary care doctor for a referral before I schedule my appointment?

Do I need a doctor's order to have a mammogram??You do not need a referral to schedule your mammogram. You may call our scheduling office at 406-731-8405, to schedule the appointment yourself. At the present time, you do need a doctor's order to have your mammogram. This insures the Radiologist will be able to reach your physician if there are concerns so recommendations for evaluation can be presented to you in a timely manner.

Does Medicare pay for a Digital mammogram? Do I get charged for any additional views I may be called back for?

All insurances cover your mammogram after 40 years of age whether the mammogram is digital or not. To insure that your insurance will cover your exam, there are two things that can be done. One is that you call your insurance company and make sure they will cover the mammogram. Second is to make sure your mammogram is done the same time every year. If you had one in April of 2007, your next one should be no earlier than April of 2008, unless you have a breast complaint. This method is the best way to ensure insurance coverage of your exam.

Yes, there is a charge for additional imaging if you are called back. Insurances may or may not cover these, so please check with your carrier, but remember this additional imaging is for a more accurate diagnosis of your breast tissue.

When is breast MRI recommended for breast cancer screening??

These are the recommendations for screening breast MRI, according to the American Cancer Society guidelines.

  • Known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • First-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, even if the patient has yet to be tested herself
  • Lifetime risk of breast cancer scored at 20%-25% or greater, based on one of several accepted risk assessment tools that look at family history and other factors
  • Radiation to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or one of these syndromes based on a history in a first-degree relative.

If MRI is better, why not have a MRI right away instead of a mammogram?

MRI is the most highly sensitive imaging study for the detection of invasive breast cancer and recent studies indicate it may also be highly sensitive for the detection of intraductal breast cancer. Although it is highly sensitive, it is not highly specific. This means that it also finds lesions, which are not cancerous and leads to false positive results and subsequent biopsies. Because of its high false positive rate, high cost and the fact that it requires specialized expertise for interpretation, general screening of the population with breast MRI is not ready for prime time. It should be used only for specific indications, as an adjunct to mammography and breast ultrasound.

At this point, MRI should be used in screening only for high-risk patients.

Other indications for the use of breast MRI are:

  • Evaluation of the extent of disease in patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer, including screening of the contralateral breast
  • Evaluation of breast implant integrity
  • Evaluation of patients with metastatic axiliary adenopathy with no known primary cancer
  • Patients with breast cancer who had surgery with close or positive surgical margins (MRI is done before repeat surgery)
  • Evaluating the response of breast cancer to chemotherapy
  • Distinguishing post-operative scar from recurrent cancer
  • Problem-solving in certain cases (patients with difficult to interpret mammograms or breast ultrasounds to help clarify equivocal findings)

At Benefis Breast Center, we want to partner with you for good breast health. You may visit us on the main floor of the Benefis East Campus South Tower, located at 1101 26th Street South in Great Falls. Or contact us with questions or to make an appointment by calling 406.731.8405.