Becoming a mammographer in California is not that much different than becoming a mammographer in other states, but there are some things you should know if you’re planning to pursue this career in the state. This guide can help you to become a mammographer in California.
California Mammography Requirements
Before you can pursue mammography in California, you have to be California-certified in diagnostic radiologic technology. This process is similar to other states. An associate’s degree is required, and it must come from an American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) recognized institution. Note that this degree does not have to be in radiology, but you must complete it before sitting for the ARRT exam.
Why do you need a degree if it doesn’t have to be in radiology? Because any degree will help you learn and grow as a radiographer or mammographer. You learn communication and analytical skills, and it gives you experience interacting with different people.
Most of the approved programs meet the specific requirements of the ARRT by combining an associate’s degree with the classes you need to become a qualified radiology technologist, which is really convenient because you can get everything done at the same time.
After you complete the necessary education, you are eligible to sit for the ARRT exam. After you pass this, you can begin to pursue a mammography certification.
Mammography Training California (Become a Mammographer)
There are two paths to becoming a mammographer in California: the ARRT exam and the state Mammographic Radiologic Technology Examination.
The ARRT Exam
The first option for becoming a mammographer is to pass the ARRT exam in mammography. There are precise educational requirements that have to be met before you are eligible to sit for the test.
For this exam, 16 hours of educational requirements have to be completed in the 24 months leading up to the exam. These courses have to be ARRT approved and cover aspects of patient care, image production, and procedures. You can choose the courses you want, but you have to have at least one hour in each of these three areas.
There are clinical experience requirements for the ARRT exam, too. Candidates must complete 25 supervised mammography procedures in an imaging center or mammography clinic to meet the qualifications of the Mammography Quality Standards Act, 75 screening or diagnostic mammographic procedures, and participate in QC and special procedures.
After meeting all of these requirements, you can sit for the ARRT exam. It is 140 questions long, with 25 unscored pilot questions. The scored questions include 14 in patient care, 33 in image production, and 68 in procedures.
To maintain this certification, you have to complete 24 continuing education credits every two years and perform 200 mammograms every two years.
When you provide documentation of passing the ARRT exam, you will be issued a California certificate in Mammography Radiologic Technology without having to take the state exam.
The California State Exam
The California state mammography exam is also through the ARRT but has different prerequisite requirements. To sit for this exam, you again have to be California-certified in Diagnostic Radiologic Technology and document that you have completed 40 hours of continuing education in mammography courses.
There are a lot of programs out there for completing this education, and they combine classroom and clinical experience. Once this is completed, you can sit for the ARRT state exam. There are 14 scored questions in patient care, 33 in image production, and 68 in procedures.
Because both of these exams are from the ARRT, they cover the same content. This is also the content that should be covered in any continuing education courses of clinical experiences.
Specific topics that the exams cover includes:
- Patient communication, including pre-exam instructions, explanation of the procedure, and patient education.
- Patient assessment of breast cancer risks and the implication for imaging, including the epidemiology of breast cancer; incidence and risk factors; signs and symptoms of breast cancer; documentation of medical history and clinical findings; and the importance of previous mammograms.
- Breast cancer treatment options, covering surgical options, non-surgical options, and reconstruction.
- Design characteristics of mammography units, including digital mammography, kVp range, mammography tube, compression paddles, grids, and system geometry.
- Digital acquisition, display, and informatics, including acquisition type, image receptors, monitors, digital image display and informatics, and computer-aided detection.
- Quality assurance, covering accreditation and certification and MQSA regulations.
- Quality control, encompassing mammographer tests with a focus on purpose, frequency, equipment and procedure, performance criteria, and corrective action; and medical physicist tests, focusing on purpose and frequency.
- Mammographic technique and image evaluation, covering technical factors and evaluation of image quality.
- Localization terminology, covering clock position, quadrants, and triangulation.
- External anatomy, including breast margins, nipple, areola, angle of pectoral muscle, skin, axillary tail, and inframammary fold.
- Internal anatomy, including fascial layers, retro mammary space, fibrous tissues, glandular tissues, adipose tissues, Cooper ligaments, pectoral muscle, vascular system, lymphatic drainage.
- Cytology, which covers epithelial cells, myoepithelial cells, and basement membrane.
- Pathology, including mammographic appearance and reporting terminology; benign pathology and mammographic appearance, high-risk pathology, and mammographic appearance; malignant pathology and mammographic appearance.
- Views, including craniocaudal, mediolateral oblique, mediolateral, lateromedial, and more.
- Special patient situations, which covers chest wall variations, irradiated breasts, male breasts, post-surgical breasts, lactating breasts, and more.
- Imaging examinations, like mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, and sentinel node mapping.
- Interventional procedures, including informed consent; procedures and associated imaging; and handling and disposing of biohazardous materials.
What Is the Difference Between the ARRT Exam and the California State Exam?
The major difference between the ARRT exam and the state exam is that the state exam can only be used for state certification. The ARRT exam can be used to practice in multiple states, though if you plan to relocate, you should check the state’s certification qualifications to be sure.
How Is This Different from the Old Process?
The old process was a little more complicated than the current one. There was a specific order in which you had to do things. First, you had to obtain 40 credit hours in mammography education and then successfully pass the California Mammography Certification exam. After passing the state exam, you had to perform 25 mammograms under the supervision of a qualified mammographer. Then, you could begin to prepare for the ARRT exam.
As you can see, the new system is a little less complicated than the old one.
Which Way Is Better?
Which way is better depends on what you’ll need. If you’re planning to stay in California and work in California for the rest of your career, the state exam is a good option. That said, if you plan to move or just want the option to work in other areas of the country just in case you ever decide to move, you will want the ARRT certification.
Either Way Is Worth the Time
Becoming a mammographer is an investment, especially when you consider that you have to complete a radiologic technologist program and meet all the prerequisites first, including obtaining an associate’s degree and passing the certification exam. On top of that, there are classroom and clinical hours and another certification exam.
When you’re in the middle of it, it seems like it’s a very long road, but in the end, it’s worth it. Mammography has saved countless lives by helping to detect early breast cancer. In fact, it’s reduced the number of breast cancer deaths by a third since 1990. As a mammographer, you play a key role in this fight. Regardless of how you get there, you’ll learn a lot and make a difference in the lives of countless women throughout your career. And that is worth more than can be put into words
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