What is Digital Mammography?
Digital Mammography is a simple X-ray exam of the breasts. This exam allows for the ability to detect cancer in the breast when it is still very small – often too small to be felt and often too small to be detected any other way. All mammography uses x-rays to capture images of the breast. Digital equipment converts the information obtained from the x-ray to information which is viewed by computer. Our digital equipment includes the brand new technology of CAD, or “computer-aided detection”, which highlights areas in the breast deemed suspicious by the computer program. This increases the accuracy of the radiologist’s reading and significantly reduces false positives.
What is the Difference between a Screening and Diagnostic Mammogram?
A screening mammogram is your annual mammogram that is done every year. The mammogram will be interpreted by an experienced, board-certified radiologist. If you require additional mammographic views or a breast ultrasound, we will notify you right away.
Sometimes the radiologist may ask you to come back for follow-up images. This is called a diagnostic mammogram. This “second look” rules out an unclear area in the breast or if there is a breast complaint that needs to be evaluated. A diagnostic mammogram is performed if the screening mammogram has questionable results, if you or your doctor feels a mass or other abnormality in your breast, if there is nipple discharge, skin change, and sometimes if you have a previous history of breast cancer or surgery. A diagnostic mammogram is closely monitored by the radiologist while you are undergoing the imaging, and the views are tailored to the problem at hand.
Preparation for Mammography
There is minimal preparation for a mammogram. Wear a two piece outfit. Do not use deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder on underarms or breasts once showered prior to exam. It is preferable to have a mammogram within the first two weeks after a period.
Most importantly, please make every attempt to bring previous mammograms for comparison.
How is Digital Mammography Performed?
You will be asked to remove clothing from the waist up and stand in front of the mammography machine. A good mammogram requires the breasts to be compressed between two plates. This compression is only applied for a short time and is automatically released after the exposure is completed. Our technologists have been taught to maximize the degree of compression and at the same time minimize any discomfort.
Sometimes the radiologist may request that more films be taken so that an area may be seen more clearly. Therefore, the technologist may return several times to take more films. Don’t be alarmed by this, as it is a common occurrence and does not necessarily imply something is wrong.
Did you know that mammograms can spot tumors up to two years before you can feel them? Or that when detected early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98 percent?
So why – despite these facts – did only half of U.S. women ages 40 and older get an annual Mammogram last year? Here are some answers to your concerns.
- “I’m concerned it will hurt.” – “our low compression mammography is virtually painless”
- “I’m worried about radiation.” – “our low dose imaging reduces exposure”
- “Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family.” – “most cancer is sporadic and not inherited”
- “I don’t want to get bad news.” – “if detected early, the survival rate is 98%”
- “I’m just too busy.” – “the most important test of your life takes less than 30 minutes”
Mammograms can spot tumors up to two years before you can feel them. When detected early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98 percent.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for breast cancer screening in women who have no symptoms of breast cancer:
Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast examination by a health care professional every 3 years.
Beginning at age 40, women should have a clinical breast examination by a health care professional and have a screening mammogram every year. They should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.
Breast self-examination is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of a BSE. Women should report any breast changes to their health professional right away.
Please visit the American Cancer Society website for more detailed information about their guidelines for breast cancer screening.