Good To Know
What is Mammography?
Mammography uses X-rays to produce images of breast tissue for our radiologists to analyze in order to detect breast cancer. Mammography plays a key role in early detection of breast cancer allowing patients to begin treatment earlier. There are two types of mammography. Screening mammograms are regular exams for patients with no signs of breast abnormalities. This technique is the cornerstone of breast imaging and cancer detection. Diagnostic mammograms investigate suspicious breast changes and evaluate any abnormal findings on screening mammograms.
What Should I Expect?
When scheduling your appointment, arrange it for a time you are not menstruating so as to minimize discomfort. If you are breastfeeding, it is best to wait until you have stopped; this does not apply if you have any new breast pain or problems. You will be asked to remove all jewelry and clothing from the waist up, so it is a good idea to wear a two-piece outfit at the time of your exam. You will also be asked to refrain from using deodorant or powders around the breast and armpit areas.
During your exam, you will stand in front of an X-ray machine while a technologist places one breast at a time on a platform and adjusts the machine to your height. Next, the technologist will position your body as necessary to get various views of your breast. When the exam begins, your breast is gently compressed onto the platform by a clear plastic plate and pressure is applied for a few seconds while the exposure is made. You may be asked to hold your breath and/or stand still. Although it may seem uncomfortable, compression of the breasts is necessary to spread out your breast tissue. The compression will lower the radiation needed and allows the radiologist to see your breast tissues and structures more clearly. The entire exam usually takes less than 15 minutes to complete.
After your exam you can return to your activities as normal. Our highly trained radiologists will analyze your images and report the findings for you to discuss with your doctor. Following the examination you will receive a letter that will indicate the results and/or recommendations for a follow up study. Additional testing is not uncommon in cases of dense breast tissue, inconclusive findings or areas that are not well seen – additional mammography or ultrasound may be recommended.
Most frequent questions and answers
There are no risks associated with mammography other than the small amount of radiation required to create the images. Our facilities are MQSA-certified so you can be assured we are operating within federally-mandated requirements.
Dense breast tissue is best evaluated with 3D mammography (tomosynthesis) and whole breast ultrasound. These examinations are available at our affiliate, Santa Barbara Women’s Imaging Center.
Tomosynthesis is the most advanced mammographic technique that produces thin slice images of the breast tissue. This is particularly useful in women with dense breasts. The radiation dose is comparable to standard mammography. It also reduces the call backs, the need for additional testing.
We follow the recommendations of the ACR – American Cancer Society who recommend annual mammograms for asymptomatic women age 40 and older who are at average risk for breast cancer.
Age at which annual mammography screening should end. There is no defined upper age limit at which mammography may not be beneficial. Screening with mammography should be considered as long as the patient is in good health and is willing to undergo additional testing, including biopsy if an abnormality is detected
Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low, but repeated x-rays have the potential to cause cancer. The benefits of mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure. Nevertheless, women should talk with their health care providers about the need for each x-ray. In addition, they should always let their health care provider and the x-ray technician know if there is any possibility that they are pregnant, because radiation can harm a growing fetus.
The dose from a mammogram is the same as about 7 weeks of background radiation.
The dose for a diagnostic mammogram is more than a screening due to the potential need for more specialized views.
Approximately 15 minutes for a screening mammogram and 30 minutes to 1 hour for a diagnostic.
Deodorant can cause artifacts on the mammogram.
If you have a screening test result that suggests cancer, your doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or to some other cause. Your doctor may ask about your personal and family medical history. You may have a physical exam. Your doctor also may order some of these tests:
Diagnostic mammogram, to focus on a specific area of the breast
Ultrasound, an imaging test that uses sound waves to create a picture of your breast. The pictures may show whether a lump is solid or filled with fluid. A cyst is a fluid-filled sac. Cysts are not cancer. But a solid mass may be cancer. After the test, your doctor can store the pictures on video or print them out. This exam may be used along with a mammogram.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer. MRI makes detailed pictures of breast tissue. Your doctor can view these pictures on a monitor or print them on film. MRI may be used along with a mammogram.
Biopsy, a test in which fluid or tissue is removed from your breast to help find out if there is cancer. Your doctor may refer you to a surgeon or to a doctor who is an expert in breast disease for a biopsy.
A screening asymptomatic patient will receive results in the mail within 3-5 working days. If the radiologist needs you to return for extra views, we will call the patient on the phone within 3-5 working days.
A diagnostic patient will receive a preliminary result at the time of exam.
Three-dimensional (3D) mammography, also known as breast tomosynthesis, is a type of digital mammography in which x-ray machines are used to take pictures of thin slices of the breast from different angles and computer software is used to reconstruct an image. This process is similar to how a computed tomography (CT) scanner produces images of structures inside of the body. 3D mammography uses very low dose x-rays, but, because it is generally performed at the same time as standard two-dimensional (2D) digital mammography. The radiation dose on the system Pueblo Radiology uses is EQUIVALENT to 2D digital mammography.
Findings have shown that patients with dense breast tissue have benefitted with having 3D mammography.
Questions should be referred to your clinician which imaging is appropriate for you. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/mammograms