Mammography is a noninvasive imaging exam that uses low-dose X-ray to photograph breast tissue. 3D technology (tomosynthesis) produces hundreds of images that allow radiologists to identify smaller lesions earlier and reduces the need for patient call backs for additional imaging. Additionally, CAD (computer aided detection) is used to identify areas of concern in the breast tissue with the use of artificial intelligence technology.
Annual mammograms are important for women who have no symptoms. Mammography is the only proven method for reliably detecting abnormal tissue of the breast. Research shows that annual mammograms can help detect breast cancers early when they are most curable and when it is still possible to used breast-conserving therapies.
- Screening Mammography
Screening mammography can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. For this reason, it is an excellent way for women to stay on top of their breast health. Current guidelines set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend screening mammography every year for women aged 40 years or older to. For women who have had or are at increased risk of breast cancer, the National Cancer Institute recommends seeking expert advice about when to begin screening and how often to have it done.
- Diagnostic Mammography is important for women who are experiencing symptoms, including lumps, pain, or nipple discharge. Mammography is the only proven method for reliably detecting abnormal tissue of the breast. Diagnostic mammography often is used to follow up on an abnormal screening mammography.
Types of Mammograms
Recent advances in mammography include digital mammography, three-dimensional mammography, and computer-aided detection.
- Digital (or full-field digital) mammography converts X-rays into electrical signals. The electrical signals are then used to produce breast images that can be seen on a computer screen or on a special printed film.
- Three-dimensional (3D) mammography, also known as breast tomosynthesis, uses X-rays to capture multiple images of the breast. By creating a three-dimensional view, it helps identify and locate breast abnormalities. It also reduces the number of times women are called back for additional imaging. We currently offer breast tomosynthesis in all locations.
- Computer-aided detection (CAD) uses digitized mammography image from a conventional or digital mammogram. The computer then searches for and highlights abnormalities, including dense or calcified tissue that might indicate cancer.
Preparing for Your Mammogram
Before you have a mammogram, be sure to discuss any problems or concerns about your breast health with your doctor. Check your insurance for the specific type of imaging that will be used.
If you are scheduled to have a mammogram, you should:
- Discuss any symptoms with the X-ray technician
- Be sure to tell your physician and mammogram technician if you have breast implants.
- Tell your doctor and X-ray technician about all surgeries you have had, including breast implants
- Tell your doctor if you have had hormone therapy
- Discuss your family or personal history of breast abnormalities, especially cancers
- Schedule your mammogram the week after your period
- Do not wear deodorant, powder, or lotion on your breasts, chest, arms, or underarms as the substances can appear as calcium spots on the mammogram
- Provide your radiologist with all previous mammograms so they can be compared with your newest films
- Ask when you can expect results
- Tell your physician and X-ray technologist if you think you might be or are pregnant
During mammography, a state licensed registered radiologic technologist will position your breast to obtain quality images for interpretation by our board-certified radiologists.
After images are obtained the technologist will review your study to be certain no additional images are needed prior to sending the exam to the radiologist for interpretation.
Digital mammograms typically take only minutes to complete and are an outpatient exam requiring no recovery or down time.
Getting Your Results
A board-certified breast radiologist with expertise in mammography will examine your images. He or she will send a report to your primary care or referring physician who will discuss the results with you. You also will receive a letter in the mail with your results.
Limitations of Mammography
Although mammography is the best tool for detecting breast abnormalities, it is not a definitive way of detecting all breast problems, including cancer. If your radiologist discovers a spot that appears abnormal, he or she is likely to recommend additional diagnostic studies. In addition, a breast examination is necessary to identify a palpable mass even with a negative mammogram. Because some breast abnormalities are difficult to detect, radiologists often compare current images with previous ones to identify changes in the tissue.
To schedule an appointment please call our Radiology Call Center at 908-277-8673