A mammogram is a safe low-dose X-ray procedure that takes pictures of the internal tissues of your breasts. This simple exam is performed as a screening or diagnostic study, to determine the possibility of irregularities within the breast. It can reveal areas too small or deep to feel, which may or may not require further investigation. Digital Mammography is the most advanced diagnostic technology available for the early detection of breast cancer.
What are the benefits of Digital Mammography?
There are numerous benefits to digital mammography. For the patient, digital mammograms are faster. The test is “filmless,” so nothing has to be developed. Images are read on a monitor and stored electronically in our PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications System). For the radiologist, digital mammograms provide more comprehensive visibility.
Calcifications can be enhanced or magnified on the screen to aid the radiologist in interpreting whether or not the calcifications are suspicious. In conjunction with every digital mammogram, Hillsborough Radiology Associates also performs Computer-Aided Detection (CAD). CAD provides a “second read” of the mammogram by a computer to support and enhance the radiologist’s interpretation. According to the DMIST study (Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial, The New England Journal of Medicine, October 27, 2005), digital mammograms detected breast cancer 78 percent of the time in women under the age of 50. That is 27 percent higher than traditional mammograms using film. Among women with dense breasts, digital mammograms were 11 percent better. That is good news for younger women and those who have dense breasts.
Our “full field” digital mammography units are also able to accommodate women with larger breasts. This means fewer images and less radiation for these patients than with other digital units.
Does every woman need a mammogram?
Yes. Presently we don’t know the cause of breast cancer, but early detection is a woman’s best protection. A mammogram may help discover a change as small as the head of a pin, years before it can be felt. Additionally, having mammograms done on a regular basis allows for comparisons of a baseline study with future mammograms. This provides a more accurate assessment of any breast changes. The sooner detected, the easier and more successful the treatment.
When should I have my mammogram?
The American Cancer Society guidelines suggest, based upon numerous scientific studies, that most women have their first mammogram by age 40 and continue yearly for as long as they are in good health. Your health care provider can help you determine when you should begin and how often you should have a mammogram based upon specific medical facts in your family history.
What will the exam be like?
The mammogram will be performed by a woman radiologic technologist who has completed rigorous training dedicated to mammography. She works under close supervision of the radiologist to assure the most accurate results from your examination. You will be asked to undress from the waist up. The technologist will position your breast and gently compress it upon the image plate. It is necessary to spread the breast tissue to reduce the thickness of the breast. This allows for lower doses of radiation and the clearest possible X-ray image. You will probably have at least two pictures taken in slightly different positions. The procedure will then be repeated for the other breast. The entire exam usually takes about 15 minutes.